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AbbVie hosts Pharma Leaders Conference

by Susan J. Ainsworth, special to C&EN
January 16, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 3

For the 14th consecutive year, the ACS Pharma Leaders Conference brought together the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries’ chemistry research leaders to discuss issues of common concern.

Executives representing about two dozen companies were invited to attend the meeting, which was held Oct. 13–14, 2016, at AbbVie’s North Chicago, Ill., facility.

Co-organized by ACS Industry Member Programs and AbbVie, this year’s meeting was again aimed at exploring areas of mutual interest with the goal of accelerating drug development. Phillip R. Kym, AbbVie’s director of chemistry, crafted an agenda focused on three themes: neglected diseases, predictive science, and precompetitive and noncompetitive chemistry collaborations.

ACS Past President Diane Grob Schmidt and AbbVie Vice President of Discovery James P. Sullivan presented remarks to kick off the conference. Peter Warner, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provided the keynote address, “Neglected Diseases—What are they and what can we do about them?” He focused on the foundation’s work and its interactions with pharmaceutical company collaborators.

Other presentations featured case studies about pharma-assisted drug discovery targeted at neglected tropical diseases. They described partnerships with groups including the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative and the Anti-Wolbachia Consortium, and highlighted company-led programs that enable employees or retirees to volunteer to develop therapies to treat neglected diseases.

The group presented updates on precompetitive efforts launched at the 2015 Pharma Leaders conference, which included sharing chemical building blocks and annotated compound sets or tool compounds—highly selective chemical probes that help researchers determine the biological function of a given target. They also returned to a discussion of ways to promote the development and use of computer-aided drug design (CADD) tools. Some emphasized the impending shortage of computational chemists dedicated to drug discovery and development as cream-of-the crop candidates are lured to other industries and pioneers in the discipline retire.

Tackling a session titled, “Medicinal Chemistry Lessons for 2016 and Beyond,” presenters discussed predictive science topics, including possible precompetitive collaborations to address toxicity challenges encountered in discovering and developing new drugs.

At the close of the conference, attendees created a list of actions and timelines aimed at addressing the proposed precompetitive collaborations forged or strengthened during the event. As a neutral third-party convener, ACS will help facilitate these post-conference activities.

“ACS is committed to collaborating with the pharma industry to support the development of critical therapies and cures aimed at challenging diseases and other health issues,” said Vijay Kuruganti, director of Industry Member Programs.

The next Pharma Leaders Conference will be hosted by Johnson & Johnson at its Spring House, Pa., site Oct. 19–20.



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