This sentiment is being exchanged by many with family, friends and colleagues looking forward to what we all hope is a near future in which we meet in person for work, play and everything else life has to offer. We at Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C. include FDA among those we are eager to see in person again soon. Due to the COVID pandemic, during the past 14+ months our interactions with the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at all levels on behalf of our clients have been limited to telephone conferences which have by necessity taken the place of in-person meetings at FDA’s offices. As pointed out by Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, Director of CDER, in her remarks at FDLI’s recent annual conference, FDA is to be commended not only for rising to the direct challenges posed by the COVID crisis, but also for adroitly pivoting to conducting the agency’s normal business without the opportunity to meet in-person internally or directly with the regulated community and its advisors. But it’s just not the same. Meetings in person allow for the pre- and post-meeting informal exchanges that help to build collegiality and good working relationships. The opportunity to observe body language is, as MasterCard would say, priceless. And, in our experience, meetings in person result in a more robust dialogue between the agency and sponsors.
That’s why when Dr. Cavazzoni mentioned considering the continuation of virtual meetings with sponsors at CDER even after the pandemic in order to perhaps have more meetings and to avoid “sponsors wasting sometimes a day to travel, waiting at security for another 20 minutes and all that,” we wished we were attending the FDLI conference in person so we could rush to the podium to assure her that no sponsor we know would give up the opportunity to meet with CDER in person to avoid a trek to White Oak. Offering the option to meet by phone to the sponsor would be appreciated and, in some instances, accepted, but the savings in travel time and costs pales in comparison to the benefits of an in-person meeting. We hope that our clients will be heading out to White Oak soon.