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DIA 2008 Wraps up Strong in Boston

Friday, June 27, 2008

Even in a tough economy and in an industry under many strains, the Drug Information Association’s (DIA) Annual Meeting keeps rolling along and growing.

Attendance for the DIA’s 44th Annual Meeting in Boston this week is up, no small feat this year with many companies citing drastic cuts in travels budgets and record high fuel costs.

Attendance hovered around  9,000 – that is up from the low 8,000s last year. That’s nearly one out of two of DIA’s 20,000-strong membership. It is no wonder attendance remains strong year after year. DIA programming keeps up with the trends in the industry and provides a great neutral forum. Boston will be hard to top, but expect DIA to pull off growth yet again next year with another top-notch location for its 45th Annual Meeting in San Diego.

With this year’s event taking place in Boston, an Industry Leadership Panel was held on Tuesday, June 24, to discuss the potential impact of Massachusetts’ $1 billion capital infusion from its Life Sciences Bill Law passed the week before DIA. The state was called one of the nation’s most important life science “super clusters,” because of its numerous academic research centers, pharma and biotech companies and industry talent pool.

“I’ve witnessed tremendously positive response to the legislation from leaders in the life sciences across the country and around the world. The phrase that sticks in my mind is that ‘California got it first, but Massachusetts got it right,’” said Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., incoming president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

Windham-Bannister added that although there is a lot of natural competition among states, she feels all of it helps the industry in the end.

“I really do think that all boats rise with the tide. It truly is a friendly competition and it is important for the U.S. as a whole to keep its global leadership role. We all should be pushing each other,” she said.

The importance of stakeholder collaboration and a higher emphasis on early education in the life sciences and engineering fields were topics of much conversation.

“We need to work on the crucial question about why young children aren’t going into science areas, not just in Massachusetts but all over the country. I think it is critically important to find out what exactly we need to do in high schools and middle schools so that more people will get interested in science,” said Ranganath Nayak, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Cytel.

The panel also discussed the “revolutionary changes” that have arisen since the NIH [National Institutes of Health] Road Map was introduced in 2001. The FDA’s Critical Path Initiative of 2004 was also cited as helping to bring a public and private partnership towards medical innovation.

“This has completely overhauled the philosophy and strategy on how to interact with the private sector. What happens in academic and government institutions play a critical role, if not a mandatory role, in helping to bring new medicines to the public,” said Ken Kaitin, Ph.D., director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development

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