Can We Agree on Conferences?

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International, November 2021, Volume 34, Issue 11
Pages: 6

Conferences are back—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Each attendee experiences their own personal journey of unanticipated surprises, small misfortunes, physical and mental challenges, beneath the general background chaos. A constellation of unknown glittering prizes draws us back each year. In some ways, it feels like being part of an instinctual migratory movement. We are swept up in the excitement of the new, whilst transformed through reunification with the old.

It was my personal pleasure to be part of the 30-year celebration award dinner for the International Pharmaceutical Excipients Council (IPEC). Over friendly and informed conversation (I sat beside Stephen Hoag from the University of Maryland), we enjoyed a fabulous meal while hearing from five new scientists on the salient points of their award-winning research. One of these, Rishi Thakkar from the University of Texas at Austin, employed one of my favorite technologies— selective laser sintering—to improve formulation porosity when dealing with poorly soluble APIs. I had not previously appreciated in any real sense the potential benefits of 3D printed drugs.

At the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS), PharmSci 360 event in Philadelphia and INTERPHEX in New York City, we assembled in large num- bers huddled around gleaming machines in capacious exhibit halls. We met at intimate restaurants with new sales prospects, or past colleagues. We sat in classroom-like auditoriums to hear scientific presentations redolent of our university youth. And we arranged site visits to local suppliers or customers.


A high point for me came when my normal office self, and my conference embodiment, both meet the author of an article that had earlier grabbed my attention while editing it. Nitin Swarnakar from BASF wrote an absorbing piece on Self Emulsifying Drug Delivery Systems. Within the article was a small section that had eluded my full comprehension, and I had made a physical note to return to the literature at some future point to clarify. Especially to better understand how this small aspect connected to the wider world of biology. Nitin was delighted to share what he knew at our booth, while the rest of the conference world swirled ceaselessly in the background. This happenstance genuinely made my day. Conferences are like that, they frustrate, and they exhaust, but serendipity and comradery draw us back. Year after year.