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Vivian Xie
26 Apr 2023

CPHI North America Anniversary Ball – celebrating The Art of Pharma

This year marks the 5th anniversary of CPHI North America regional events. To celebrate this remarkable achievement, the CPHI show team hosted The Art of Pharma Anniversary Ball at the illustrious Philadelphia Museum of Art, with a keynote speech from Peter Bigelow, President of xCell Strategic Consulting. 

CPHI North America began as an expansion of CPHI events to the North American pharmaceutical services sector. Hosting a CPHI event in the US granted community-building access for a country that accounts for 40% of the world’s pharmaceutical sales, and houses six out of the top 11 companies. Established in 2018, CPHI North America aims to facilitate the growth of the North American pharmaceutical industry by providing a place for all stakeholders to connect, innovate, learn, and network, and The Art of Pharma Anniversary Ball, sponsored by Biophore and hosted April 25, 2023, celebrated the 5 years it took to build the event to what it is today. 

The ball began with a keynote speech from the President of xCell Strategic Consulting Peter Bigelow. Introduced by comedian Shaun Eli, Bigelow began his speech with a warm introduction to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the oldest art museums in the US and boasting an almost 100-year-old building with over 240,000 objects from around the world representing the best in visual and decorative arts. “I want to welcome you to the city of brotherly love – Philadelphia. You will find a beautiful city here with lots to see, great restaurants, fabulously diverse neighbourhoods, and terrific people,” Bigelow stated. “CPHI is recognising its 5th year here in Philadelphia with this terrific event. Many of us wondered whether the industry needed regional events in addition to the global CPHI meeting in the fall and other global events. Well, the growth of this event has answered that question and I congratulate the CPHI staff on their vision and ability to execute an efficient and valuable exhibition for the industry.” Peter Bigelow

Bigelow’s keynote highlighted the remarkable achievements accomplished by the pharmaceutical services industry throughout the pandemic and beyond, with the delivery of “very effective vaccines and therapeutics”, as well as the specific challenges faced by the wider industry. “We as an industry have had a lot of mud splashed on us over the past 10 years – some deserved, some not. The pandemic gave us a chance to change that perception. How much we changed it is still a debate and we need to continually tell the world our story,” he claimed. 

Drawing from his own experiences working as an engineer at Smith Kline and French Laboratories (now making up the SK part of GSK), Bigelow observed the changes of Philadelphia’s life sciences sector, from the start of Smith Kline and French with manufacturing capabilities for cimetidine API, capsules for solid dosage products, and packaging operations through to today’s industry with a focus on supply chains, risk management, and Pharma 4.0: “How could we consistently get product packaged, released, shipped to customers within a 1 year time frame?  Then we benchmarked the Bread Supply Chain.  Bread needs to be made, released, shipped and consumed within 5 or 6 days.  That industry has forced the urgency and process improvement needed to make it happen.  Sure – the testing is quicker and delivery tends to be more local – but the point is clear. There are ways to operate our businesses with more mare agility and a greater sense of urgency.” 

Cell and gene therapies were also highlighted, with Bigelow remarking on the thousands of clinical trials utilising autologous or allogenic cell therapy and advanced CRISPR technologies continuing to push innovation forward. However, Bigelow appealed to the audience to be wary of technological stalls: “My observation is that the products to be developed from these technologies are taking longer, require more expensive clinical trials and are generally slower to make it to market It reminds me of the Biotech revolution of the late 80’s and early 90’s. One year we thought there was not enough capacity – the next we thought there was way too much. I truly believe the Cell and Gene Therapy products will continue to have a huge impact on our lives especially in cancer and rare diseases, but it will take time and patience for the industry to understand how to best serve this important field.” Bigelow also remarked on the winds of change within the macroeconomics of the pharmaceutical services industry. With a ‘new reality’ facing an industry emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic as a leader of innovation, but with IPO’s down and M&A activities slowing own, Bigelow offers the following assurance: “This too will pass.” 

Finally, Bigelow left the audience with the following sentiments regarding the transition from Big Pharma to the pharma services sector: “I was interviewed on one of Raman Seghal’s “Molecule to Market” podcasts last year.  He titled it “Poacher turned Gamekeeper” acknowledging my transition. For me, it was an exhilarating change. Big organizations are all about consensus building and slow but continuous improvement... Empowerment is powerful. I owe a lot to big Pharma for teaching me technical skills, teamwork and leadership – but I am very appreciative of my CDMO days for learning how companies are run and how to provide a distinctive offering to the marketplace.” 

Mentioned Companies
Biophore Pharma Inc.
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Vivian Xie
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