The PIPMG was founded in 1985 by individuals from some of the key players in the UK pharmaceutical industry at the time: Beecham, Fisons, Glaxo, ICI Pharmaceuticals, Smith Kline & French, Roche, Syntex and Wellcome.In those days, project management was relatively new to the pharmaceutical sector and many of the people involved were not formally trained, having moved from other roles in their respective companies. In fact the original idea that led to PIPMG came from a meeting of the Association of Information Officers in the Pharmaceutical Industry (AIOPI) because some of this group were taking on project management work alongside their information science roles.
It soon became clear that there was a shared interest among companies to find out how others were responding to the project management challenge. Small meetings were held on a rotational basis, hosted by the different companies involved. Typically the host company would describe how it was implementing project management and this would be followed by a general discussion. After a couple of cycles, enthusiasm for these meetings declined as each company progressed along its chosen track and general awareness was greater. There was an attempt to broaden the meetings both in terms of agenda and attendance and this met with some success, with external speakers contributing on a voluntary basis. However the administrative burden for the host company became too great as the meetings increased in size and at this point the future of PIPMG was unclear.
The core organising group decided that some 'new blood' was required to take things forward more effectively but it proved difficult to achieve the required continuity. On more than one occasion during the early to mid 1990's PIPMG came close to being dissolved. Then some of the original members agreed to return in the form of a Steering Committee to bring some structure to the planning of the twice-yearly meetings. It was decided to engage a professional organisation to manage the logistics of these meetings and the partnership with Browncroft Associates was formed. This provided the structure and organisation for PIPMG to grow rapidly since individual companies no longer had to host meetings, even though volunteers were still required to 'design' and run the programme. Using external venues also provided greater capacity and the numbers of attendees increased accordingly. Introducing new members to the Steering Committee is no longer a problem and this bodes well for the future development of the group.
For PIPMG today, the picture is very different from those early days. All the original companies have been involved in some form of consolidation and four of them are now one (GlaxoSmithKline). The number of smaller companies has increased significantly - some have become substantial entities in their own right, while other have found it more challenging to make the transition from a ‘biotech’ to a more traditional pharmaceutical company. The role of specialist service providers has increased as large companies seek to outsource non-core activities and small companies strive to take drugs further along the development pathway before seeking licensing deals. PIPMG has embraced all these changes and the current membership of around 500 from 65 companies in the UK and Europe is representative of all those involved in developing new medicines. In spite of all these changes PIPMG has retained an informal structure that seems to be valued by its members and provides an excellent networking environment.
The pharmaceutical industry will continue to change and PIPMG, having demonstrated its value, is well-placed to play an important role in shaping best practice in project management well into the future.