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Tony DeStefano

Tony DeStefano, Ph.D., is the 2013 AAPS president.

The 2013 AAPS Leadership Retreat was held to examine the future of the pharmaceutical industry and the role of AAPS in that future. AAPS leaders convened earlier this year to get a handle on the changing nature of the pharmaceutical industry and how AAPS can continue to play an important role in helping its members in the face of this shifting paradigm. AAPS demographics alone demonstrate the scope of the changes: Fifteen years ago, nearly 75% of the members classified themselves as belonging to “Big Pharma,” and today that number is closer to 25%. The models for drug discovery and development are evolving rapidly, with shifts toward in-sourcing new leads from small companies and outsourcing noncore work to contract research organizations (CROs), an increase in the number of biologics developed relative to small molecules, movement from blockbuster drugs to personalized medicine, and an increased reliance on a globalized supply chain and the CRO community.

Change is inevitable and, in this case, critical to the survival of the pharmaceutical industry and to taking advantage of new regulatory thinking and development strategies to maximize patient benefits. The question is: Can the evolution rate of the skills needed to effect these changes keep up with the need? Can pharmacy schools adapt their training to balance changes in formulation science and the science associated with treating these diseases? How about workers that have been in their field for a while–are they able to weather the changes? What new skills are needed, and how can they be provided in real time? It is important that the industry take advantage of the talent that exists already and ensure that new people entering the field are prepared to fight the current war and not the last one. What are the gaps, and what role can an organization such as AAPS play in training, education, and networking?

The AAPS Leadership Retreat started us down the road to thinking about these areas but was just the first mile on our journey. The June AAPS Newsmagazine cover article summarizes the highlights of the retreat. We welcome your thoughts on these questions. Read the article and then participate in the discussion question below.

Discussion Point: What is the most important way for AAPS to address the changes occurring in the pharmaceutical sciences?