Connect in Pharma—an annual event from Easyfairs—had its debut launch on September 14 and 15 in Geneva. Key players from companies in the pharmaceutical industry, including Bayer, Merck, Pfizer, Roche, Johnson & Johnson and GSK, among others, came together at Palexpo Convention Centre during the two-day event to hear about the latest innovations and developments in pharmaceutical manufacturing, drug delivery and contract manufacturing.
Combining innovation, product development and manufacturing
Exhibitors representing a wide range of companies—including founding partners BD, Catalent, Körber, BioCorp and Unither Pharmaceuticals—showcased services and solutions aimed at lowering costs, reducing speed to market, improving health care outcomes for patients and reducing their environmental footprint. Highlighted products and services included new forms of smart drug delivery syringes, wearable devices for delivering large-volume biologics, modelling tools to ensure drug combinations reached approval faster, AI tools embedded in automated assembly lines, precise robotic assembly machines, next generation aseptic fill-finish solutions and customized and scalable services from contract manufacturers both large and small.
Jey Velladurai, strategic technical device portfolio manager at Bayer AG, appreciated the mix of specialities the exhibitors and speakers represented: “The event has been brilliant. There’s innovation, product development and manufacturing. It’s about the combining of all three together.”
Ece Gulcer, technology, innovation and sustainability lead at Pfizer, said: “I am always on the lookout for innovative solutions for delivery devices, filling systems and patient-centricity. At Connect in Pharma, I’ve had the opportunity to see these innovations in person in an amazing venue.”
Elena Obrecht, head of maintenance at Johnson & Johnson said: “I’ve had the pleasure to meet machine and packaging manufacturers across the supply chain. Connect in Pharma showcased sustainability through interesting packaging solutions. I have been inspired by the newest trends in the market, including pharma and medical device innovations.”
Designed for connectivity
With talks and workshops located directly on the event floor, participants say it allowed for increased interactions between pioneers in pharma and leading suppliers and manufacturers.
“When I saw the exhibition area, I was quite impressed,” said Dr Reza Abedian, senior medical affairs manager at Gerresheimer. “I liked how the talks were integrated into the exhibition area. As they were held on one end of the event, it allowed for a level of calm and quiet needed when giving a presentation, but also people could stop in and listen when passing by.”
Théophile Griveau-Billion, CEO of smart reusable packaging startup Monoceros, took part in a panel discussion highlighting innovations in sustainable packaging of medicines. “We had interesting people coming to speak to us afterwards. A pharma company we have been trying to reach out to for months and never came back to us came up to me afterwards and said: ‘We would like to try that!’”
Two open-bar champagne receptions and a gala dinner provided additional opportunities for visitors, exhibitors and presenters to exchange ideas and connect. The gala dinner was held at the historic Villa Sarasin and featured live cooking demonstrations, a DJ, and the opportunity for invitees to mingle across the villa’s stately rooms, veranda and terraces.
Bas De Gooijer, BD manager at Ecobliss, said: "The gala dinner was a real highlight. I had some really interesting conversations with people who shared similar values around the importance of being patient-centred."
Awards showcase sustainable innovations in the packaging of medicines
At the end of day one, Dr Nazneen Rahman, founder and CEO of YewMaker, announced the winners of the inaugural Sustainable Medicines Packaging Awards.
Melinda Su-En Lee, co-founder and CEO of Parcel Health, received the gold award for packaging in recognition of the design of plastic-free primary packaging solution. Su-En Lee shared her personal journey as a pharmacist looking to create the recyclable, compostable packaging that also improves the functionality of the packaging. She recalled how, as a young child in Malaysia, she saw first-hand the environmental devastation caused by the plastic waste shipped there from the US and Europe.
On winning the award, Lee said: “Being able to share our product and our vision and our story with a larger audience is amazing. I would love to see more recyclable and compostable packages be used, and in the future hopefully the plastic pill bottles or even the over-the counter bottles will be sitting in a science museum as a relic of the past, and sustainable options like these will be the mainstay product.”
Gold, silver, bronze and highly commended award winners received recognition in two award categories. In addition to the Design Award, pioneers developing ways to keep the elements of packaging in the system longer, thus reducing overall waste, received recognition under the Circularity Award category.
The Gold Circularity Award was presented to Kiley Djupstrom, commercial development leader at Plastic Ingenuity, on behalf of the company’s development of thermoformed plastics that can be reused along the pharma value chain.
The full list of winners can be found at https://www.connectinpharma.com/sustainable-medicines-packaging-awards-shortlist/.
Philanthropy and rare diseases
Rounding out the offerings was a photography exhibit “Days of Rare” by Ceridwen Hughes and SbD Creative and a charity partnership with EspeRare, a Swiss not-for-profit organization dedicated to the research and development of novel therapies for rare diseases. Easyfairs will be donating five Swiss francs for every visitor that attended the event.
EspeRare cofounder and executive director Caroline Kant said: “Connect in Pharma has been great to raise awareness about rare diseases and hopefully our involvement helps to shine a light on the patients that so desperately rely on the drug development efforts to bring new treatments to market.”
Renan Joel, divisional managing director for packaging at Easyfairs, concluded: “We are thrilled with the success of this inaugural event and the feedback we have received so far. With over 70% of our exhibition space already booked for next year, we know this event will go from strength to strength. This first edition has proven to be a fantastic foundation on which to build for future years, and we can’t wait to welcome our partners, exhibitors and visitors to an even more dynamic event in June 2023.”