15 Years of PHUSE

Inaugural meeting in London, 16th September 2004

Today marks the milestone achievement of PHUSE’s 15th anniversary. It has been 15 years since the individuals in the photo above met in London to discuss taking what was a mad-sounding idea and creating a technical conference for SAS programmers.

Since that photo was taken, PHUSE has welcomed near 10,000 current members. We have run 14 EU Conferences, 2 US Conferences, 7 Symposiums on behalf of the FDA and almost 150 global Single Day Events, as well as created important documentation that is referenced by the FDA, EMA, Health Canada and the PMDA. And I now have grey hair!

People often ask me what the most rewarding thing about PHUSE is. I think it is phenomenal that PHUSE has provided a platform for introverted computer programmers to stand up and present their knowledge in front of hundreds of people, not only for the industry but also for their own professional (and personal) development. We now have record numbers of abstracts for each Connect; I never would have thought people would be falling over themselves to present.

In this photo you can see Adrienne Bonwick, Operations Director; John Hirst, Finance Director; and James McDermott and Dirk Spruck, who are both PHUSE Honorary Members and still extremely active in PHUSE Working Groups and Events. They are all still involved with PHUSE 15 years later in impactful PHUSE positions. I reached out to the others to see where they are at now, and to reflect on PHUSE from then to now…


“PHUSE has achieved a massive amount in the last 15 years, from a desire to set up a European PharmaSUG to the global organisation it has become today. That globalisation reflects the increasingly global nature of the industry. 15 years ago, there was Europe (and pretty much only 5 or 6 countries in Europe), US and Japan; now, the industry has significant presence in India and China and wider numbers of European countries.

“On a personal note, I’ve really enjoyed my times at PhUSE events, made some great friends and caught up with old ones. The evening in the Guinness bar in Dublin where we had half the Sandoz programming team reunited was a highlight, as was winning Best Paper in the Statistics Stream one year. If I can ever justify attendance again, I’ll jump at the chance.”

– David Smith


“Aside from the amazing leaps we’ve apparently made in digital camera technology in the last 15 years, I think the biggest change is the recognition that programmers in the pharma industry are now given and have earned. Back then, programmer contributions were often filtered through the statisticians, and it was a struggle for some to be fully represented on the project teams. 

Having moved to clinical in 2008, I’ve gradually seen a shift in perception and understanding amongst my new colleagues of what the programmer does, how challenging it often is, and the skills required to be consistently successful with quality, timely deliverables. I’m sure PHUSE has played a big part in that – the opportunities to share knowledge, present ideas, network and refer back to the wealth of material that has built up over the years are all invaluable in building expertise and establishing best practice.”

– Kevin Kilminster


“Although Stephen is concerned about his hair turning grey since this photo was taken, I am quite satisfied to have simply retained some hair and to have lost the red tie. The industry has significantly changed since the origin of this group, particularly resourcing strategy. I recall how the earlier conferences were strongly populated by large pharma contingents and how this trend first moved towards an increasing attendance from vendors and then very much into the global arena. PHUSE has totally adapted strategy to that change in the industry.

“My most startling memory of the early days occurred at the conclusion of day 1 of the planning meeting in London. Stephen had given a rousing vision of what PHUSE could be, and when I asked him how many conferences he had been to before, he replied “Er, none.”

My most satisfying memory was the completion of the 2nd PHUSE Conference, in Dublin. We clearly had done well with the inaugural Conference in Heidelberg but then to repeat that success and make innovative changes clearly was a sign this was a winning combination and a successful team. I look forward to many more PHUSE Conferences and to help PHUSE continue to grow and evolve.”

– Roy Ward

“Apart from the initial discussions with Stephen Bamford and the first meeting of the team to work out how to get something started, my best memory is of the first event in Heidelberg. This was very different to the large PHUSE Connects of today. Some may say we are amateurs now, but back at the time of the first Conference in 2005, we really were. Despite those relatively humble beginnings, the team’s sense of the achievement was huge. The immediate enthusiasm to start planning the second event the following year and the deep-rooted belief that we’d started something special is also something I remember very well.

“My best memories…I have two. One was the shock of the success of the first Conference. People were really interested in the concept of a non-SAS, non-US focussed forum specifically for programmers. The other was at the end of the Conference when Stephen said that he had never been to a conference before. The idea that someone could lead this effort without any prior experience with conferences was great. I think that was the biggest step towards PHUSE standing on its own, and not being the ‘European PharmaSUG’.”

 – Greg Silva


“PHUSE has grown to be the premier clinical data science event. The amount of SDEs is incredible and the quality of the presentations never ceases to amaze. The knowledge and vision of PhUSE members is astonishing. I remember thinking that if we could get 100 SAS programmers together for an event, we could have an excellent niche event which wasn’t catered for within Europe and we could grow it to a couple of hundred attendees in a few years…obviously from the start it was way beyond that. and it’s grown from strength to strength. I guess it’s lucky I wasn’t in charge of it all!”

– Lawrence Heaton-Wright


“It was very good to hear from Stephen and to be reminded of how PHUSE began and how much it has contributed to our industry over the years. I think Stephen should feel immensely proud to have created and founded such a fantastic organisation that has done great things for the industry and for the people and their careers associated with it.”

– Daniel Morris

I would like to personally thank every individual involved with PHUSE over the last 15 years and for their endeavours to support the Society in all of its successes. We are a worldwide community and platform of like-minded individuals all striving towards the same goal: to advance clinical data science. PHUSE has brought a near 10,000 individuals together to do this, and I cannot wait to see what the next 15 years will bring!


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