Every year when I come back from CPhI, I could probably write much the same blog, covering much the same ground about the negative: the ludicrous size of it, the way everyone is sooner or later running late, the foolishness of fixing meetings at half-hour intervals when the first one will start 15 minutes behind schedule and the next will take 15 minutes to get to...
But to be positive, this year in Madrid was considerably more painless than some. Getting there from the centre of town by metro was a breeze and the layout of Feria de Madrid is much more conducive to a positive show experience than Paris-Nord Villepinte or Messe Frankfurt. (I'll stop banging on about Milan 2007 now; there has to be a statute of limitations on these things.) Although the show is still growing, the pace of growth has at least slackened off and it was manageable. And, five days later, I'm almost completely recovered.
As so often before, there was a feeling that the news was happening off-stage. It emerged on the grapevine that ICIG, owner of WeylChem and CordenPharma among others, had returned to the acquisition fray after a year off by buying Tessenderlo's pharmaceutical intermediates and APIs operations in Italy, though this was not officially revealed to the press. Then another journalist scooped me and everyone else by finding out that Saltigo was quietly exiting early stage pharma, which has still not been officially announced at the time of writing.
That said, there is still nothing to match a day shuttling around CPhI to find out what is really happening. All this is rounded up in the October edition of SCM, both in terms of news and a general feature. Much will sound familar, but much was surprising.
At a time when many fine chemicals companies and CMOs are thanking their stars that they did not exit agro and specialities in pursuit of the pharma pot of gold, it was surprising how many big volume suppliers to pharma are delighted with the state of business. High potency APIs are in huge demand from those capable of supplying them, of course. Quality by Design has gone from an interesting concept to a real differentiator.
That Big Pharma has feet of clay is not news either, but the sheer extent to which CMOs now regard Medium Pharma, Small Pharma and biotechs as their most desired customers came as a shock. And many see a consolidation on the cards. Logic and economics dictate it, the sheer number of companies (even if they were all present at CPhI, which they aren't) is absurd. Yet it is slow to happen - witness the press conference by Piramal Healthcare, which basically said that they have $3.5 billion to spend, aim to be a top 3 player but still have not been able to find the right purchase.
And finally, in the spirit of things, here are the unofficial CPhI awards, as voted for by a panel of myself:
Best Company Stand - Dr Reddy's. It looked like a Roman temple and dominated its hall totally. Indian companies and generics producers have been having the big showy stands at CPhI for years, the way the big CMOs used to, but this still made a statment.
Best National Pavilion - India too, I'm afraid. If you had told me 21 years ago when I backpacked around India that I would one day meet people from the Indian Brand Equity Federation, I would probably have asked you what was in that pakora. But they did it with some panache, showing India's arrival as a real force in pharma as well as speciality chemicals.
Cheekiest Ad Campaign - AMRI has heavily promoted and trademarked the concept of 'SmartSourcing'. NextPharma took several poster ads at the show styling itself 'The Smart Sourcing Company' - note the space between the words. I assume no copyright issues arise? And I hope it doesn't detract from a very interesting concept.
Most Accessible (and Quotable) CEO - Mark Griffiths, Carbogen Amcis. No contest at all. Good to see him back.
Biggest Disappointment - Dunkin' Donuts setting up at Puerta del Sol in the very heart of Madrid. It's just not right.
Special Award for Services to the Industry - Rx360 and the EFCG. And if you are in the industry, you should know why without me telling you.