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#BHBIA2021 Conference – Day Three – Wednesday 13th May - blog

May 13th, 2021

12th May was the third and final day of our first ever virtual conference and, as with the first two days, we've created this blog to reflect on a few highlights of the sessions.

Don’t forget, if you have a Conference ticket you can now access the recordings of the presentations you missed via the web platform - they will be available for 30 days. 

The day was chaired by Board members Rob Heathcote and Jenny Dawson. Rob introduced the morning session by commenting on both the great content that’s been shared so far and the extensive networking that’s been taking place, despite the limitations of the virtual environment – and with the bonus that they’ll be no complaints about the buffet food!

Our opening speaker was Craig Hopper, Project Lead, Global Innovation and Digital Commercial Transformation (IDEA) Team at Novartis.

Craig explained that the digital upskilling that’s been necessitated by Covid has broadened data availability and accelerated the trend for reporting solutions to be centralised to give one version of the truth and made more accessible, particularly for those needing to access data on the go. He mentioned Natural Language Processing (NLP) as an example of a process that’s being utilised more, to help us understand the key themes of HCPs’ discussions, and noted that we’re now really starting to see the application of AI across a number of areas – e.g. to provide sales reps with ‘next best actions’.

We’re seeing a transition from the traditional ‘pull’ whereby data users have to proactively look for information, to a ‘push’ approach in which information/data and insights are being pushed out, this freeing teams to focus on recommendations and actions.

We then went into the ‘BHBIA Dragon’s Den’, as Aurora Albert of Day One introduced three industry leaders to pitch their ideas to us the audience, to vote on which one we’d most like to see put into practice:

Tim Robinson, Head of Global Immunology Insights at UCB pitched his idea for the ‘BHBIA Benchmark Bureau’ whereby companies could benefit from broader reach to monetise their existing datasets and build their reputation by joining a platform whereby the BHBIA would accredit, audit and assure their benchmarks, thus bringing rigour and relevance.

Christine Launay, Director, Global Commercial Insight at Janssen noted that the pandemic has illustrated that the ‘unthinkable is possible’. We’ve all had conversations in our personal lives that felt connected, engaged and insightful – so why not take the unthinkable a step further and get rid of PowerPoint in our business interactions? Using technology for ‘teleportation’, people can effectively be in the same room and could share all the data and insights via a dynamic platform and apply advanced analytics to address questions in real time.

The WINNER of the vote was Jenny Cummins, Founder, Shine Advise with her ‘Plenty more fish in the sea’ concept for drawing an MR panel in a unique way – an algorithm would be used to identify potential respondents via a widely used social media platform such as Facebook (or LinkedIn). It would mean access to the right subjects quickly and, critically, you’ll get diversity of opinion, which can sometimes be lacking within existing panels.

Faye Holmes of HRW and Rachael Czujko, MSD introduced their ‘Feeling Fragile about Agile’ paper by reminding us that Agile is a set of values and principles rather than a methodology. Adopting it in the right way can have a huge impact, and it’s about much more than just doing things more quickly.

They identified four key principles for a successful agile approach:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Iteration
  3. Continuous improvement
  4. Meaningful decisions

A strong message that resonated with us all was the importance of partnership, preferably on a long-term basis rather than a one-off – with everyone working as one big team with the same goals and on the same journey together.  Key to success is getting the right combination of meetings with the right people there so in the moment decisions can be made, based on real insights.

After the break our next session commenced with a short interlude for meditation.

Then we came back to the present to listen to Matt Beckett from CSL as he demystified AI.  Matt gave us a run through the history of AI and how we got to where we are today before taking us through an overview of the sub disciplines of AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning.

Using a range of examples Matt explained the basics of how we might start to use AI in projects.  Matt’s presentation was a clear and digestible introduction to one of the hottest topics in our industry and is well worth revising on the conference platform in the days to come.

Our next presentation from Olivia Brickman of Impact Health and Dr Sudhanshu Patwardhan from Centre for Health Research and Education looked at research to inform a project aimed at halting the decline in smoking cessation rates in the UK.

Olivia shared a range of statistics which demonstrate the impact smoking still has on the nation’s health and Dr Sudhanshu delved deeper into the statistics which show how different sectors of the population are more likely to be current smokers.

CHRE understand that rate of decline in smoking is slowing and that some of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of stress, anxiety and boredom are typically driver smoking rate up.  And yet the focus on stop smoking services is being deprioritised.

Using the COM-B model of behaviour, as part of their research approach, Impact Health and CHRE worked together on a programme whose ultimate output was the development of some easy tools, aimed clinicians and public health team members, which support stopping smoking during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Olivia and Dr Sudhanshu should be especially pleased as their paper won the Keith Munro Award for Best Conference Paper – well done!

In our last session of the morning John Grime and Chris Peck of Strategic North discussed the need to ensure that projects deliver business impact and that, to achieve impact, the project needs to have engagement throughout its lifecycle. 

Chris presented results from a study conducted by Google which suggested that only 20% of attendees at a virtual meeting were actively listening and contributing to that event.  To ensure greater levels of engagement John and Chris showed how they take a different approach to projects encouraging active, virtual, participation at all stages of the project process.  Through this approach they see greater engagement with the project which presents a real opportunity for action to result from the project.

We had an excellent morning of papers from our presenters and we thank them all for their contribution to our event.

After a final chance for networking over lunch, we returned to hear our closing keynote speaker, Jim Ward of Kerry Ventures. As a consultant, Jim has been working with Boehringer Ingelheim over the last five years, advising them on their Brexit strategies.

Jim emphasised that Brexit has unfolded as a process, not an event, and has gone through multiple stages. He explained that there are three key questions that life-sciences companies need to ask themselves:

  • Will we still be able to manufacture our products?
  • Will we still have regulatory approval to sell our products?
  • How will we ensure that we can get our products to customers?

From this falls out four key areas that you can focus on to address the questions: people & structure, supply, regulatory and communications.

He identified two particular problem areas for us in life sciences:

  1. The failure to reach an agreement on mutual recognition of batch-testing, which could waste a lot of time if not resolved;
  2. The implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol – a key market access issue, which will involve most functions of a company.

GDPR was also mentioned. Updates on a UK adequacy decision are available on the BHBIA's website at

This brought proceedings to a close, and Chairman Paul O’Nions summed up the three days’ events and his hope that everyone will leave with at least one thought-provoking idea that will change the way you work.

He announced the winners of the Conference awards, as voted for by delegates:

  • As mentioned above, the Keith Munro award for Best Conference Paper went to the Impact Health and CHRE team for 'Stubbing Out Smoking in the UK'
  • And Daniel Wain won the John Wheeler award for Best Workshop – Tuesday's ‘Why should anyone listen to you?’ session.

Paul thanked all our speakers, panellists & hosts, our sponsors: SurveyHealthcareGlobus and Origins Insights, the BHBIA support team and the AV crew – and of course all the members who attended our first ever virtual conference.

We ended with a final burst of entertainment from Jonny Awsum (who may make it into the BHBIA hall of infamy, along with the pirates and square potatoes that he sang about!)