Why Executive Platforms Decided to Launch Pharma Manufacturing World as Our Seventh Summit Series

An Open Letter by

Geoff Micks
Head of Content & Research
Executive Platforms


Those of you who follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn may have already seen the ‘Save the Date’ announcement for Executive Platforms’ newest summit series, Pharma Manufacturing World Summit. The first edition of which will run June 22nd and 23rd, 2020, at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

We are very excited about it, as you can imagine. Or maybe you cannot?

It occurs to me that with each of the last six series Executive Platforms has launched, we never made a public announcement explaining our thinking as we began the work of putting the event together. Why did we choose to build a summit on this topic for that group of executives in one particular industry sector as opposed to any of the other excellent options?

Oh, we have one-on-one conversations with advisory board members and speakers and corporate partners all the time where we walk through our thinking, but to date we have never set out a public mission statement at the start of a new project explaining the who, what, why, when, where, and how of it.

I would like that to change, and there is no time like the present.

Offering a clear picture of what we hope to accomplish to our network as soon as possible makes all the sense in the world to me. In less than twelve months hundreds of busy people are going to take time away from their daily working lives to come together in Boston because of what Executive Platforms will do in the near future. As Head of Content & Research, the task of offering insights into our plans should be mine.

So what exactly is the Pharma Manufacturing World Summit, and why are we doing it?

Well, as with almost everything we do, this new event is an organic growth with a different focus out of other related summits we already organize. The most obvious and direct connection, of course, is our successful and long-running Biomanufacturing World Summit that runs every November in San Diego.

About Biomanufacturing World Summit

If I may be personal for a moment, the people who attend the BMWS series are among my favourite groups of delegates to host. These senior manufacturing, technical operations, quality, and supply chain executives are the leaders within their organizations from just about every biopharmaceutical manufacturer in the world, and they come together each year as a community connected by shared history going back throughout their personal and professional lives. As much as Executive Platforms works to build strong content into the agenda, I am sure the ‘reunion’ nature of a BMWS event is also one of the major draws for our audience: The delegates and speakers go looking for friends they have not seen since the previous summit; they hug each other and ask about one another’s families; they reminisce about the early days of their careers when they were all junior executives working together in the biopharma division of some enormous pharmaceutical manufacturer that may or may not still exist after decades of M&As.

I doubt I am surprising anyone when I say those promising biopharma divisions of the 1990s are almost all now giants of the industry, and in their footsteps have followed two generations of new start-ups driven by innovation and new technologies that have unlocked treatments and medicines that are benefiting millions upon millions of people around the world every day.

The Great Divide in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Roughly speaking, pharmacology and drug development can be divided up into two camps: Small molecule and large molecule. While there is some correlation to size in the name –you can typically draw out a diagram of a small-molecule drug’s components on a white board, which is not something you will likely ever want to do with a large-molecule drug that might have more than 1,300 amino acids— the labels also help to classify how the drugs are made, their behaviors, their modes of action and transport, and their suitability for different drug forms.

For most of the history of modern medicine, drug development has focused on small-molecule products, and more than 90% of the current on-the-market drugs are still small molecules. With that said, Biopharmaceuticals are all large-molecule products, and so we have been building successful events for years focusing on the challenges and opportunities of the rapidly growing, rapidly innovating biopharmaceutical manufacturers as they grow their market share each and every year in the quest to better serve patients.

There are some executives who attend the BMWS series who work on both large- and small-molecule drugs, but we honestly do not have the bandwidth to cover the issues of both halves of the pharmaceutical divide in one event, especially at an event who by its very name has focused on the smaller but rapidly growing portion of the industry.

Talking About Subject Matter

What goes into a BMWS agenda that speaks to a large-molecule manufacturer but probably not to a small-molecule manufacturer?

Well, for one thing, most biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are relatively new, were custom-built with the latest technology available, and focus on creating incredibly complex products reliably and safely, perhaps for the first time at commercial scale anywhere in the world. There are any number of important things to talk about in doing that well, and Biomanufacturing World Summit’s speaker faculty all work within those conditions and speak to those issues and challenges and opportunities.

So what then do we leave off the agenda of a BMWS event because it is relevant to small-molecule manufacturers but often not to their large-molecule counterparts?

Speaking broadly, many small-molecule manufacturers have been mass-producing their products for years in facilities that are frequently updated and upgraded but still incorporate any number of legacy assets and systems from earlier iterations. What does a technical operations specialist in a small-molecule environment focus on? Optimizing production lines, improving margins, bringing Lean Thinking and Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement into existing processes, rethinking supply chains, bringing digital manufacturing tools into established analog environments. All of these are issues small-molecule manufacturers are grappling with right now that are not front and center in the minds of their counterparts in large-molecule manufacturing whose facilities are relatively new and are still operating as originally designed.

Now let us also remember that many of the next generation of exciting new products coming online in live modalities like Cell and Gene Therapy will have manufacturing and supply chain realities that are completely foreign to traditional manufacturing, and the decision to keep topics that are the bread-and-butter of our Manufacturing and Supply Chain programs to the minimum on BMWS’s agenda becomes readily understandable.

Speaking of bringing new products online, while we have said much of the rapid growth and new products coming online for biopharmaceuticals, new drugs are still being created by small-molecule manufacturers, especially in the fight against cancer. According to a recent article, the small molecule oncology drug market is expected to exceed $66-billion this year. With that said, there are enormous differences in bringing a small-molecule oncology drug to market versus a biopharmaceutical product, and at an event called ‘Biomanufacturing World Summit’ we are much more interested in the later.

Inside Executive Platforms

Having given a sense of the content we are not covering that Executive Platforms is confident we could build into a new dedicated event, let us also talk a little bit about the ‘inside baseball’ of conference production. Executive Platforms’ events are built on a by-invitation-only basis through our ever-growing network of executives and corporate partners. Our delegate registration teams are subject matter experts with connections to just about every relevant executive in their industry in North America, and often connections in Europe and Asia as well. This has created incredible synergies between our Manufacturing, Supply Chain, e-Commerce Operations, Human Resources, and Food Safety and Quality series over the years.

Biomanufacturing World Summit does have some of these connections, of course, but realistically delegates who attend BMWS enjoy custom-tailored content and a direct connection to a community of executives who have known each other all their working lives; they have only limited reasons to attend one of our other broader-scoped summit series when they already know and find value in attending a bespoke annual event. As a result, the dedicated people at Executive Platforms who bring Biomanufacturing World Summit together find themselves spending a few months every year working outside their area of greatest focus and engagement. How much better would it be to have two pharmaceutical events –roughly six months apart with one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast—so our people are always working on one or the other or both, and always within the pharma manufacturing space?

In Summary

For our seventh summit series, Executive Platforms plans to build our second pharmaceutical event. Its agenda will include content we cannot build into our long-running and successful Biomanufacturing World Summit event –particularly content relevant to small-molecule manufacturers– but it will still have value to those executives in our existing network who work on both small- and large-molecule products and who to this point have only found some of their challenges addressed in detail in our existing programming. We plan to bring the Executive Platforms-style of event to all pharmaceutical manufacturers, where before our speaker faculty and agenda was only directly relevant to a portion. We plan to build this event on the East Coast in the early summer as a natural compliment and counterpoint to our existing West Coast event in the late autumn.

This is not the whole story, of course. Much of the whole story is still to come. If you have read this far, I encourage you to follow @EP_PharmaMan on Twitter for regular news and updates regarding this new series.

We look forward to telling you more soon. Stay tuned!