Looking Back on 2017
As her term ends, Binodh DeSilva, Ph.D., looks back on her year as AAPS president.
In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined that I, a native from the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka, could be the president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS), a prestigious professional organization in the United States. It was an honor and a privilege to serve you this past year. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Serving as your president has been a rewarding, exciting, and humbling experience. In addition to working with my colleagues on the executive council and the top notch staff at AAPS, I have had the enriching opportunity to get to know our members, who come from diverse scientific disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences. While serving such a community is exhilarating, on balance, the richness of the breadth and depth of this organization provides opportunities for us to promote our science, careers, and the community.
I am so proud to report that we have grown our membership to just under 9,000 members, an increase of 10 percent over the past year. This is significant because it is the first annual increase since 2008.
I am sure you experienced the big changes at AAPS this year. We consulted our members through a multitude of surveys to understand what value we provide to the membership. This has enabled us to put in place programs, processes, and technology to position the association into the future. AAPS has been a strong scientific organization for the last 30+ years, and we want it to be the same for future generations to come.
2017 was a year of transition. Because biotechnology-derived drugs have become integral to the pharmaceutical sciences, we wanted to address the broadened interests of our members and decided that a separate annual event focused on biotechnology no longer served today’s environment. Thus, we created an entirely new annual event, PharmSci 360, to cover both the biological and chemical pharmaceutical sciences and replace AAPS’ two separate annual events, the AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition and the National Biotechnology Conference.
In its last year, the just-ended 2017 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition included many new features: We increased the amount of scientific programming in themes, and we instituted theme keynote speakers, who focused on the core message for each theme’s programming. We reworked poster presentations, implementing poster forums: conversational spaces, where members could chat with authors and discover posters relating to a particular topic. Each poster forum hosted about 20 authors and their posters, all relating to the same topic. We also shortened the meeting by one day and instituted a closing session with entertainment, followed by a closing reception.
Next year, we debut an entirely new meeting, PharmSci 360. We designed the new meeting to raise potential for greater collaboration between small molecule- and biologics-focused scientists, to provide conference attendees a meaningful and engaging learning experience, to focus on new research, to accomplish business objectives, and to highlight the main attribute of the AAPS community: cross-discipline learning experiences on contemporary hot topics.
Scientific sessions at PharmSci 360 will be grouped into five tracks:
- Preclinical Development
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Manufacturing and Bioprocessing
- Formulation and Quality
Within each topic, the program will offer parallel tracks covering the chemical entity and biomolecule areas, each offering scientific depth via numerous seminars, keynote talks, and rapid-fire presentations.
In addition, each year two timely hot topics will be addressed: one on a chemical entity topic and one on a biomolecular topic. Each of those topics will be woven into the tracks, and attendees will be able to follow the topic from end to end through the different disciplines to gain breadth in that area.
In September, we launched AAPS Communities, a dynamic, interactive platform to exchange knowledge, generate ideas, and expand your professional network. Members are already joining in discussions to engage on important topics and uploading resources to the library. Threaded discussions make it easy to find information, and a member directory search helps you find other AAPS members by name, location, areas of expertise, work setting, and more. I encourage you to join a discussion or start your own! Share your expertise, get your questions answered, learn what is new in the industry and regulatory arena, see what your colleagues are discussing, and find your home at AAPS. The daily AAPS Communities email digest keeps members apprised of the latest posts.
Have you seen the new AAPS website that launched in October? With a fresh, modern look, the new website is our response to member feedback and priorities. The new website will work and display on all your devices: desktop, tablet, and phone. One sign on gives you access to all platforms: the main website, the AAPS Communities, the AAPS journals, and the AAPS Newsmagazine. It is also easier than ever to update your profile and renew your membership.
The changes were significant, and the impact is profound. None of these could have been accomplished without the passion, dedication, and hard work of many people. AAPS leaders and staff rose to the challenge, sought member input, and got down to work to make it all happen. I am deeply grateful to everyone who worked tirelessly on these changes and helped make my job as president so enjoyable. To Walt and all of the AAPS staff, your support and dedication made my year as president so rewarding.
To my fellow volunteers, without your commitment and willingness to change things up to match AAPS’ programs and services to the needs and wants of our members, none of these developments would have been possible. My thanks go to the AAPS Executive Council, sections, focus and discussion groups, committees, and other volunteers who accomplished this year’s achievements.
It has been an honor to serve as the president of AAPS. As Christopher McCurdy, Ph.D., assumes his role as president, he will oversee the changes I have discussed here and will continue the great work of making AAPS responsive to its members. Chris, I wish you great success!