In 2004, Stephen Bamford started looking at the opportunities available for the training of Pharmaceutical Programmers and have often felt that there should be a European forum where we can get together to share ideas, thoughts, concerns and ask questions about the future direction of the industry. The statistical world appears to be well catered for with respected and successful meetings arranged by such organisations as the RSS, PSI, DIA, etc and Data Managers were equally catered for through ACDM and DIA. However, at this time, the only outlet for the Statistical Programmer has been to attend a statistical conference or the SAS FORUM International.
At the same time, global initiatives such as CDISC started to bring the work that is done in all companies closer together, but there was a need for programmers to share this knowledge.
It was with this challenge in mind that the winning formula of PharmaSUG was chosen as a starting point for our new forum. Planning started back in April, when after a number of discussions with the 2004 PharmaSUG chairs, Diana Williams and Richard Allen http://www.pharmasug.org/ and James McDermott, founder of Oxford Pharmaceutical Sciences (OPS), a very successful inaugural meeting was held in London on 16th September 2004.
Considered a resounding success by all those involved, representation was made by most of the major Pharma companies and CROs.
The inaugural PhUSE Conference was held in Heidelberg, Germany from Monday 10th October to Wednesday 12th October, 2005 just over 1 year after the first meeting. It was with a sense of excitement that the PhUSE organising committee surveyed the venue for the inaugural conference in the historical Stadthalle building in the centre of Heidelberg on the banks of the river Neckar.
There was also palpable nervousness as the result of over a year’s hard work was about to come to fruition. As the conference packs were being put together, high spirits and jokes were a plenty but make no mistake, we were about to step in to the unknown! With over 270 registered delegates from 12 countries drawn from over 50 organizations in attendance, the initial goal of advertising and promoting PhUSE within the industry had been achieved and was an overwhelming success. There were 60 presentations across 11 sections, 25 posters and numerous tutorials over the 3-day conference, as well as demonstrations from SAS and the opportunity to take the SAS Certification exam. The conference consisted of 3 concurrent streams of presentation papers, an ongoing poster session and a “knowledge zone”.
A major theme of the conference was the “CDISC and XML” section that consisted of 13 presentations including two from Dr. Rebecca Kush, founder and President of CDISC www.cdisc.org, introducing CDISC and then outlining her thoughts for the future. The CDSIC theme continued throughout the conference and cumulated with a panel discussion, which ended with a lively and interesting debate!
The Monday evening saw the main mixer session that consisted of a cocktail reception and a “Havana style” buffet in the restaurant that was part of the conference venue. This was very well attended and gave everyone the opportunity to mingle and discuss the events of the day, long into the night.
This winning formula was the foundations for building the conference for future years.
Between 9th and 11th October 2006, PhUSE arrived in Dublin. PhUSE had taken all the learnings from Heidelberg and this was truly a fabulously conference hotel.
The standard of presentations was again very high, with a lot of different topics being covered at a variety of technical levels.
The Monday night event really was special... The whole of St James’s gate Guinness Visitor’s Exhibition Building became an extension of the PhUSE conference. Confusion over the food (another learning to build upon) aside, the evening was enjoyed by all with fabulous views over the city of Dublin and of course, a pint of the black stuff!
Following the success of the first two conferences it was decided to formalise the committee structure to allow PhUSE to grow as an organisation.
To achieve this, Stephen Bamford was confirmed as President, with James McDermott as Treasurer/Secretary. Assisting Stephen and James on the Steering Board for this year were Dirk Spruck, Olivier LeConte, Kevin Kilminster, Adrienne Bonwick, Gary Hearfield, John Hirst and Stephen Harrison.
To make PhUSE successful, it was vital to have a large pool of resource to help out with many tasks to ensure the smooth running of PhUSE. The major event each year is the work involved with the annual conference, but many different tasks (conference section chairs, website, newsletters, one day meetings, etc.) also required assistance.
A team of 30 volunteers were part of the committee and this covered many countries and many companies showing the depth into the industry that PhUSE had already reached.
In October 2007, PhUSE moved to Portugal and approximately 300 delegates, presenters and exhibitors descended on the capital Lisbon and enjoyed another very successful 3 day conference covering a wide range of relevant topics.
As ever, there was a healthy mix of companies, nationalities and experience, with plenty of opportunities to network with peers in other organisations. New for this year was a management stream, specifically for those who have moved into the supervision of programming groups and also a University Day, where students from the University of Lisbon were invited to attend sessions relevant to them and learn more about our industry. Due to the number and quality of papers received it was also possible for the first time to run four streams concurrently.
Keynote speaker for this year was Dr Armando Oliva of the FDA's Office of Critical Path Programs, who gave an interesting insight into his expectations for the future of bioinformatics at the FDA and also how the Agency handles submission data currently.
The now infamous Monday night invite saw a sit down meal in arguably Lisbon’s finest venue – the Kais Restaurant which is housed in a converted tram factory.
As PhUSE left Lisbon and moved into 2008, the Society was born.
At PhUSE's 5th anniversary, PhUSE held their annual conference in Basel, Europe’s major Life Sciences hub.
The team around Conference Chair, Benjamin Szilagyi and Co-Chair Heidi Curinckx built on PhUSE’s strengths while trying out new activities and sessions such as the Discussion Club or pre-conference courses.
The main theme “Accelerating Clinical Development” had an impressive entrance with Diane Jorkasky as the key-note speaker who gave a highly relevant and enthusiastic statement on where the industry currently is and where it could go to.
The committee had to select from over 140 submitted papers the best ones to go into the conference package. This selection ensured a very high quality of content for conference attendees who engaged in discussions during the presentations as well as the social events around the main event.
With over 380 attendees the Basel conference definitely was another milestone for the growth of PhUSE as a conference and society.
For PhUSE’s sixth annual event, we went to Germany’s capital and fantastic metropolis, Berlin. The Radisson Blu hotel, with its huge fishtank, the welcome drink and dinner on Sunday evening and the social event in the old pump house ‘Wasserwerk’ were big hits! These combined with the program made PhUSE 2010 an overwhelming success.
It all started with a motivated Conference committee, who gave their all to attract good speakers and to organize their stream to be must-do’s. The result was a diverse agenda, with a wide variety of viewpoints and opinions. Individual efforts were supported by a strong conference theme 'Innovation Driven by Technology' and by the attendance of three highly experienced keynote speakers.
There were several occasions for everybody to give input, to share thoughts and expectations. The feedback we received, during and after our event, confirmed again that PhUSE is the premier event for programmers and other functions in the Pharmaceutical Industry.
This feedback will be used to build further on the successes, to take lessons and to improve in specific areas that deserve attention but more than all that, the feedback convinces us to continue and to strive for more!