The Avoca Consortium Summit: My Report from Dublin

by Imogen Cheese
Avoca Consortium Summit, Dublin

In June, I attended the Avoca Consortium summit in Dublin on behalf of Imperial. Representatives from more than 40 companies working in pharma and biotech attended, which was quite an achievement, especially considering that many of the delegates were juggling projects between major industry gatherings including DIA and ASCO. My journey was just across the water (I am based in the Cotswolds, U.K.). However, many had further to travel, including my Imperial U.S. colleague Melynda Geurts who had flown from much farther afield.

This was truly a pulling together of like-minded people and organizations. With Imperial having recently become a member, this was my first experience with my Avoca associates, and it was clear that many felt that the travel was well worth it.

Topics discussed at the summit highlighted key areas that had been raised as concerns by the panel of speakers. Then the audience pitched in with suggestions, means to resolution, and even support and inspiration.

There was no hierarchy – every delegate was considered an equal. Thanks to the excellent mix of talks and networking, we quickly became a room full of professional friends. Jim Lawless, a remarkable keynote speaker, had the entire audience mimicking a jockey’s position on a horse mid-canter, rendering us to tears of laughter. A key takeaway from Jim’s talk was that we hold the pen that writes our story.

This resonated with me. As professionals working in the field of clinical trials, we have options. We can do our jobs to the exact criteria set by our job title. Or, we can step out of our comfort zone, push barriers, and establish connections that challenge our thinking and the framework we are governed by. This concept of looking and working outside of the box and the pre-defined rule book is what makes the Avoca Consortium unique.

There are challenges within the world of clinical trials. The task ahead isn’t just to bring more innovation to the table. The challenge is to bring the right trials forward, more quickly, and more cost effectively, while always placing the patients first. Finding a new and innovative way to do all of this while still meeting individual department and organizational needs is the very reason we all went to Dublin.

One of the greatest areas of discussion, both in formal sessions and throughout the event, was something that is at the very heart of Imperial and what we do: patient engagement.

It was wonderful to talk about and hear from every angle that patient engagement isn’t just a buzz word (like patient centricity) that gets spoken about but is never fully absorbed into planning and organizational philosophy.

We talk to our clients about the huge array of options and opportunities available to help cater to the patient’s needs. The discussions at the Avoca summit showed that this shift in approach toward where the patient sits is universal. As an industry, we can collaborate and innovate, and when we do, the landscape in front of us will change for the better.

The summit was inspirational and the networking opportunities invaluable. Dublin made us all welcome, and after visits to the Guinness factory and the duty-free store at the airport, I have taken home even more than just an expanded list of important contacts.

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