Pistoia Alliance US Conference Report 2018



The Pistoia Alliance Annual USA Conference 2018 was our largest and most ambitious conference yet. Attendance of over 200, keynote speakers, panels, focused breakouts, exhibitors and posters sessions made for a fulfilling few days of learning and networking.

Here’s how the day unfolded:

Keynote speakers: collaboration is key.

Our key note speakers emphasised the importance of collaboration in our industry if we are going to tackle the healthcare challenges of the future with the advent of new technologies.

The morning keynote was delivered by Dr Jim Sullivan, VP of Discovery at AbbVie. Dr Sullivan reflected on the startup successes he has seen throughout his career, and the technological advances driving change in R&D; such as the huge leaps that gene-editing technology like CRISPR offer and the role a of AI in drug discovery. Noting that “the challenges ahead are so complex that no single company will be able to deliver alone”, Dr Sullivan reiterated the Alliance’s call for the life science industry to find more ways to work together and realise the transformative potential of innovation.

The afternoon keynote was delivered by Dr Sally John, VP of Translational Biology at Biogen, and a previous winner of the Suffrage Science award. Dr John spoke about Biogen’s successful public-private collaboration with the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation, to improve the success rate for discovering new medicines. As a champion of open innovation and collaboration, Dr John also communicated to the audience the need to identify which questions you are seeking to answer and accept that you cannot answer all of them alone, by recognising that “working together is the future of science”.


There were three events on the Monday and Tuesday before our main conference:


AI Centre of Excellence:

The AI Centre of Excellence focused on three main topics, looking at the challenges and opportunities for collaboration around data & data quality, the potential for AI use in clinical trials and development of methods for explaining the results of use of AI models for scientific and regulatory review, Model interpretability.

Find out more here


Blockchain Bootcamp

As part of our effort to educate the industry in the potential of blockchain, we ran a bootcamp introducing the attendees to the Hyperledger platform, as well as a mini hackathon incorporating a range of life science use cases, allowing participants to code their own blockchain-enabled apps in teams. Find out more here



Startup Support Session

Prior to the main conference we ran a coaching and support session for some of the President’s Challenge finalists and some of our startup members. We ran two sessions, first a pitching session with guidance and mentoring  and then a “would pharma buy it?” session where the startups got to talk through and get feedback from a panel of industry experts. Our thanks go to Abi Barrow, Roger Frechette, Dana Vanderwall, Lars Greiffenberg, Mary Donlan, Peter Henstock, Eugene Durenard and Pat Pijanowski for giving their time, expertise and valuable feedback to the startups. As one startup said:

“Thanks to the Pharma Executive Panel – it is so important to get feedback from these folks collectively in one room.  That two hours was so valuable for me. It would be great to continue this and please tell them how much it was appreciated”.


This year we ran breakout sessions covering the future themes of FAIR principles in pharma, AI/ML, Lab of the Future and an overview of the current Pistoia Alliance portfolio. Attendees could go to one of these sessions, if you are interested in the future themes, please visit our IP3 ideas engine where you can sign up for the respective Community of Interest or even suggest your own idea of the next Pistoia Alliance collaborative project. If you wish to find out about our existing portfolio you can find out more under the projects section of our website or contact one of the Pistoia Alliance team.

President’s Startup Challenge

The winners of its 2018 President’s Startup Challenge, at its annual member conference in Boston. The Alliance also called for greater collaboration between stakeholders to realise the potential of new innovations and translate the benefits to patients. The grand prize winner is Riffyn, with the audience vote winner named as Breast IT. The two were chosen from five finalists, shortlisted from 19 challenge entries from around the world.

In his opening remarks to more than 200 attendees, Dr Steve Arlington, President of The Pistoia Alliance, explained that the Alliance has now doubled the number of start-up members to 50, and is also seeking to work with more charities and patient groups in the year ahead.

“I congratulate Riffyn and Breast IT on their wins and look forward to seeing how all five of these dynamic young firms develop. The innovations we have seen this year from all of our start-ups have been very impressive, and the potential for improving global health is significant,” commented Dr Arlington. “All of us in the life sciences community have a role to play in ensuring that the fruits of these startups’ labours can reach and impact patients, and we must join forces to achieve this. Against today’s challenging global economic and political backdrop, this kind of coming together is even more important. The core aim of the Alliance is to improve collaboration between life science stakeholders, and by working with each other, we can truly change the lives of patients around the world and open the door to more breakthrough discoveries.”

Find out more here

Pistoia Alliance Annual European Meeting 2019

Places are filling up fast for the Pistoia Alliance Annual European Meeting in London on the 13th March 2019. Further details and registration information can be found here.

About The Pistoia Alliance:
The Pistoia Alliance is a global, not-for-profit members’ organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. It was conceived in 2007 and incorporated in 2009 by representatives of AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer who met at a conference in Pistoia, Italy. Its projects transform R&D through pre-competitive collaboration. It overcomes common R&D obstacles by identifying the root causes, developing standards and best practices, sharing pre-competitive data and knowledge, and implementing technology pilots. There are currently over 100 member companies; members collaborate on projects that generate significant value for the worldwide life sciences R&D community, using the Pistoia Alliance’s proven framework for open innovation.

Media Contacts:
Spark Communications
+44 207 436 0420

Carmen Nitsche
Pistoia Alliance
+001 510-589-3355

Image credits (reproduced with credit to the following artists):
Markus Spiske

Posted in Pistoia Alliance Blog.