PharmaCongress: On the Pulse of Industry for 25 Years

   

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The beginnings of the PharmaCongress

In 1998, the first PharmaCongress was created around the Pharma Technology Conference - with additional conferences and a large trade exhibition. In 2006, the new PharmaCongress Production & Technology moved from Berlin to the Congress Center Rosengarten in Mannheim. In three parallel conferences and the associated trade exhibition, more than 20 speakers and around 300 participants discussed current trends in the pharmaceutical production environment.

At the 9th edition of the German Pharma Technology Conference, current projects were presented in lectures and in four plant visits at companies in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Area: Abbott in Ludwigshafen, Dr W Schwabe in Karlsruhe, Biomeva in Heidelberg and R.P Scherer in Eberbach. It was also possible to visit the trade exhibition with 42 exhibitors free of charge.

The new congress had already received a lot of attention in its first year at the new location. Consequently, more than 50 exhibitors showcased their products and services in 2009. And the number of participants also showed a clear increase compared to the previous year: more than 350 participants and visitors attended the trade exhibition and the three conferences, the 10th Pharma Technology Conference, the Current Technologies in Sterile Production Conference and the Ready-to-Fill Syringes Conference. And more than before, the Pharma Technology Conference focused on projects that had been realised in the fields of active ingredients, pharmaceutical production and packaging in the years before. The use of current technologies and the project planning of modern facilities were presented by the respective operators. In addition, the scope of the Pharma Technology Conference was expanded to include further topics. For example, the conference dealt with energy savings, the use of low-cost equipment from the Far East and the interpretation of the new Annex 1 from the authorities' perspective. And as before, factory tours were an essential part of the Pharma Technology Conference. Three well-known pharmaceutical companies opened their doors to congress participants: Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim and Merz.

Image 1: PharmaCongress 2008 in Mannheim

Regulatory issues - the revision of the EU GMP Annex 1

Just in time for the conference, the new EU GMP Guide Annex 1 came into force on 1 March 2009. The most important changes were controversially discussed not only in the run-up to the publication, but also at both the Pharma Congress Production & Technology and the parallel conference Current Technologies in Sterile Manufacturing.

The Pharma Congress Production & Technlogy had already become that large that the premises of the m:con Congress Center in Mannheim were no longer sufficient, also with regard to the further development of the congress. A new location had to be chosen again. For the coming year, 2010, the congress moved to the Swissôtel Congress Centrum in Neuss near Düsseldorf. For a new congress, the successful concept was to be revised and expanded. Instead of the previous three, there were to be five conferences. One of these conferences was also to address an international audience. Other changes: more space for the trade exhibition and the forum. In addition, congress participants were to be able to put together their own individual programme for the day with inexpensive day tickets. So they were not tied to one conference as before, but could switch between the conferences at any time. Active exchange among the participants and visitors continued to be a priority.

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The PharmaCongress goes international

The new concept had already been presented at the successful 2009 congress in Mannheim. And it was already clear there that the response from exhibitors would far exceed expectations. Although the exhibition space was increased by more than 40% compared to the previous year, the best places were quickly taken. And well before the end of 2009, the exhibition was completely booked out. The five conferences had become seven - with two international conferences organised together with the long-standing partner, the European Compliance Academy (ECA). Breaks were coordinated as far as possible so that it was also possible to switch to individual lectures or between blocks of topics. The congress was also worth a visit for trade visitors to the exhibition, i.e. for all those who did not want to attend any of the conferences, but still wanted to get up to date on product, technology and service innovations, discuss them and network. As in previous years, visitors to the exhibition were admitted free of charge on both days. The now more than 70 exhibitors also made the show even more interesting - and with the two international conferences and the opening for international exhibitors also for a trade audience beyond the German-speaking countries. Further, the expanded Pharma Technology Forum with more than 20 lectures allowed exhibitors to introduce themselves and their products and services in short presentations. The Forum made its debut in 2009 and was extremely well received by both congress participants and trade visitors. The programme also included a special pharmaceutical water show for the first time. Here, Congress participants and visitors to the trade exhibition had the opportunity to examine the water systems of well-known manufacturers and to compare them in detail directly next to each other. The visit to this special pharmaceutical water show was also free of charge.

PharmaCongress grows to over 1,000 visitors

Concept Heidelberg had made the right decision with the revision of the PharmaCongress: for the first time, the industry get-together united seven conferences and brought together almost 75 exhibitors at the affiliated trade exhibition with a new pharmaceutical water special show. The new Pharma Technology Forum and a new registration concept with low-cost day tickets instead of the usual registration for one of the conferences had convinced participants, exhibitors and visitors. The offer to listen to individual lectures in different conferences was enormously well received by the first time over 1,000 participants on the two days.

The new location together with the new concept contributed significantly to the fact that the Pharma Congress quickly developed into the leading industry meeting place in Europe. It had been known for years and was now also appreciated as an international forum far beyond the borders. Thus, for the first time at the Pharma Congress 2012, more than 1,200 participants from 25 countries discussed current trends and took advantage of the opportunity for an extensive exchange with colleagues, regulatory bodies and opinion leaders in the eight top-class conferences and the affiliated trade fair with now more than 80 exhibitors. Among the more than 90 speakers at the congress were also, for the first time, representatives of the American Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and HealthCare (EDQM).

Another novelty was introduced in 2014: the practical orientation of the PharmaCongress, which has been in place since the beginning, was to be further expanded by panel discussions and, above all, live demos. For the first time, these demonstrations allowed exhibitors to make their process technology and solutions even more tangible for congress participants and visitors to the trade fair and to make the exchange even more lively.

At the new location, the PharmaCongress continued to grow steadily - to 10 parallel GMP conferences in 2016 and regularly over 1,000 participants and over 90 exhibitors at PharmaTechnica. But even despite a significantly enlarged exhibition space, a number of exhibitors kept ending up on the waiting list - and did not get the opportunity to present their company, products and services to the international trade audience.

Image 2: PharmaCongress 2019-2022 in Neuss

The Corona pandemic requires change - PharmaCongress takes place online

It was not until 2020 that this steady development experienced a significant break. The worldwide Corona pandemic forced Concept Heidelberg as the organiser to first postpone and then cancel the PharmaCongress 2020 as the meeting place for the European pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical technology suppliers. In order to still enable participants to exchange ideas and to give exhibitors a platform to present their latest products and services, the congress with conferences and PharmaTechnica were postponed to September and moved online - with great success. A total of 850 participants logged on to the live online conferences and for a visit of the virtual PharmaTechnica exhibition with around 30 exhibitors. The specially created PharmaTechnica Forum on the third day, where exhibitors explained the latest developments in pharmaceutical technology and production to congress participants and trade visitors in more than 20 presentations, was also well attended.

It was not until 2022 that the internationally renowned industry get-together was able to return to its usual form after two years of online conferences and virtual exhibition: on site in Neuss/Düsseldorf, in the Crowne Plaza, the former Swissôtel - and with more than 70 exhibitors in PharmaTechnica as well as with four conferences, in which again more than 50 speakers and around 1,000 participants discussed the current trends in the industry.

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Strong growth and the move to Wiesbaden

In order to enable further growth of the congress and to offer PharmaTechnica exhibitors more exhibition space and further opportunities for presentation, as well as to be able to accommodate more exhibitors, it was decided to change the location again. In 2023, the new PharmaCongress with PharmaTechnica Expo will take place for the first time at the RheinMain CongressCenter (rmcc) in Wiesbaden. And for the 25th anniversary of the event, some innovations will again be introduced: the North Hall of the exhibition centre with 4,600 m2 of exhibition space will now accommodate almost 110 exhibitors and they will also be able to present larger exhibits in the exhibition hall. In addition, live demos will again be part of the new congress - albeit in a different form. The exhibitors' demonstrations are intended to give visitors even more opportunity to experience, learn about and feel the technology in a real performance. A new OnlineForum also allows exhibitors to post video presentations, which congress participants and trade visitors can watch any time to get an idea of what to expect at the upcoming PharmaTechnica and to gain an overview of the products and services presented there. This makes PharmaCongress & PharmaTechnica a "365/2 event", an ideal combination of 365 days online and 2 days on site. Under the motto users #sharing challenges and solutions in practice, the focus on 28/29 March will once again be on the more than 80 presentations and well established case studies from renowned pharmaceutical companies at the seven top-class conferences, the professional exchange and personal networking at PharmaTechnica Expo... and of course also at the get-together of the large and popular social event.

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