Volunteer Voices: Allison Vavala, Helsinn, Chair of the DCAT Education Committee

Allison Vavala
Director, Commercial Development, Helsinn Therapeutics (U.S.) (representing HAS Healthcare Advanced Synthesis) and Chair of DCAT’s Education Committee

DCAT Value Chain Insights’ “Volunteer Voices” spotlights employees at DCAT Member Companies who serve on one of DCAT’s volunteer committees.

This “Volunteer Voices” features Allison Vavala, Director, Commercial Development, Helsinn Therapeutics (U.S.) (representing HAS Healthcare Advanced Synthesis) and Chair of DCAT’s Education Committee.

Q: The DCAT Education Committee develops the Education Programs at DCAT Week. Can you provide highlights for the programs coming up this March for DCAT Week 2022?

We are very excited to offer four programs at the upcoming DCAT Week 2022! As DCAT veterans know, we kick off the Education Programs on Monday, March 21, with Pharma Industry Outlook led by Graham Lewis, Vice President, Global Pharma Strategy, IQVIA. Pharma Industry Outlook is a DCAT Week staple and the place to be for the latest market data on the Bio/Pharma industry and on the CDMO/CMO sector. Daniel Cohen, Managing Director & Global Head of Healthcare Services Investment Banking, RBC Capital Markets LLC, will provide a CDMO/CMO financial overview.

On Tuesday, March 22, we have a doubleheader. In the morning, we have Executive Insights: Navigating the New Supply Chain Paradigm featuring Christopher Langan, Senior Vice President, External API Manufacturing, Eli Lilly and Company; Karin Shanahan, Senior Vice President, Global Biologics and Sterile Operations, Merck & Co.; and Klaus Hagenmueller, Head Global Supply Chain Management, Evonik. We want to give the DCAT audience real examples of how Bio/Pharma companies and their suppliers are responding to the supply-chain challenges that we are all facing today and what additional practices are being put into play.   

Tuesday afternoon we have a brand-new program, The Innovation Leaders:  A Conversation with Aamir Malik, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Innovation Officer, Pfizer, where we will pull back the curtain and gain valuable perspectives on the C-Suite role of Chief Business Innovation Officer and industry reflections on how drug development is evolving in the current business climate.  

On Wednesday, March 23, we wrap up the programs with Supply Chain Digitalization, Business Analytics & Technology Applications. Developed by DCAT’s Supply Management Committee, the program is the inaugural program of a partnership between DCAT and the Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University, and its top-ranked Supply Chain Management (SCM) program. There is a lot of excitement with the DCAT membership to be partnering with Michigan State University, whose faculty is considered the best in the SCM field. The program will provide practical insight into how digital technologies will influence the Bio/Pharma supply chain and how it will impact how business is conducted with supply-chain partners: customers and suppliers.

Q: A new program this year is The Innovation Leaders, featuring Aamir Malik, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Innovation Officer, Pfizer. Could you share a preview what will be discussed?

We are very excited to have Aamir Malik, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Innovation Officer, Pfizer, join us during DCAT Week. Besides learning about this C-Suite role, we will be going deeper in understanding the decision-making behind product innovation and what key learnings from the pandemic and other factors will reshape drug development in the future. We will also discuss key trends and drivers influencing partnership models, mergers and acquisitions, and the role that manufacturing plays in those deals. This program is offered complimentary to the DCAT membership, so I definitely urge people to take advantage as they won’t want to miss it.

Q: Another program, Executive Insights: Navigating the New Supply Chain Paradigm, will feature a panel discussion of leading executives. Can you tell us more about the program, and why this topic is important for DCAT members?

Whether you are on the buying side or selling side, supply chain has never been more important or scrutinized as everyone is facing delays and shortages. The executives in this program will show us both Pharma and Supplier perspectives on issues such as, product prioritization, supply-chain resiliency, or a shift in strategy to back integration of key suppliers.  The client/supplier relationship has never been more important, and we will learn real lessons on how that relationship has evolved and what we will see in the future. 

Q: How does the Education Committee decide on the topics and speakers for the DCAT Week education programs?

I’d love to say that there is a specific formula that we apply year after year, as I’ve now been involved with the Education Committee since 2017, but every year is different!  We are lucky to have such great volunteers on the Education Committee, and their industry perspectives and network really are what helps shape the program. The first couple calls involve a lot of brainstorming on topics and potential speakers. The Committee has a good mix of volunteers from bio/pharma companies, CDMOs/CMOs/suppliers, and consultants to provide varied perspectives, so we discuss issues or topics we think will be of interest and important to the DCAT membership, and it goes from there…

Q: What do you enjoy most about serving as a volunteer with DCAT, particularly as Chair of the Education Committee?

For me, being a part of the DCAT organization has allowed me to meet wonderful people in the industry on both sides of the aisle. DCAT really is the best networking organization in our industry, and I’ve been honored to serve as the Chair of the Education Committee to help bring the DCAT Week Education Programs to life. It is always amazing to watch the process from the first call with a blank page to the full program. The executives that we target are top-notch, so regardless of the topic, I think the DCAT membership will certainly learn a thing or two from attending.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add, particularly for those who have not attended DCAT Week before?

I think there is a particular excitement around DCAT Week 2022 as we haven’t been in person since 2019 and we’ve all felt that void. For people new to DCAT Week, expect to have your days filled from morning to night and try to squeeze in as much as you can!  Besides the Education Programs, the Women’s Networking Breakfast and DCAT Member Reception are always must-do’s. Bring lots of business cards and if you’re like me and enjoy wearing heels, make sure to pack flats when you’re running from hotel to hotel. I also love lunch meetings to make sure that I actually eat.

Note: DCAT Week will be held March 21–24 in New York City. Full information may be found here, and the schedule of programs and networking events, here.