The retirement of Lynda Wight as TOPRA’s Executive Director was announced at the Annual Review Meeting in Dublin last October and following a period of transition to the new Chief Executive Kevin Pay, she has now fully stepped down. The original announcement prompted many warm messages from colleagues old and new, acknowledging her contribution, both to the organisation and to the profession of regulatory affairs over the years. A recurrent theme was that Lynda was – and still is – simply ‘Ms TOPRA’.
In many ways Lynda’s career has reflected that of the development of the regulatory affairs profession. She joined MSD as a registration officer in 1979 following her MSc in Information Sciences (specialising in medical information), and immediately joined the British Institute of Regulatory Affairs (BIRA), one of TOPRA’s legacy organisations, attending the first Introductory Course in 1980.
Lynda became an active BIRA volunteer participating in various working parties, and gradually took on other roles including Company Secretary, Board member, and Chair of the Publications Committee. During this period, she left MSD to help set up one of the earliest consultancy companies, MCRC, and a training company ‘Rostrum’. These eventually became the global full-service CRO IBRD Rostrum, and Lynda the Executive VP.
In 1998, she accepted an invitation to assist as General Manager of BIRA/ESRA (European Society of Regulatory Affairs) on a ‘temporary’ basis, but accepted the role permanently in 1999 and set about preparing the organisation for the 21st century.
Her most significant achievement was driving the initiative to amalgamate BIRA and ESRA – two separately functioning entities – into one international-facing organisation, TOPRA, which came into being in January 2004. Its successful launch and transition can be attributed to Lynda, who oversaw all the structural changes, legal requirements, administrative systems, corporate materials and communications, both external and with members.
Under her leadership TOPRA developed strong relationships with many national regulatory authorities across Europe, as well as the European Medicines Agency and the EU Commission. These relationships have helped to develop the TOPRA Annual Symposium into the most well-attended regulatory conference in Europe covering all aspects of regulatory affairs, as well as professional development.
Lynda has always been open to change and seizing opportunities as they arise encouraging collaboration with appropriate partners and promoting the global credentials of TOPRA. Most recently TOPRA has supported a regulatory conference in India and provided training places for regulators from the African medicines agencies. Meetings and courses have also been held in Singapore, Hong Kong and the US.
In her time at TOPRA Lynda has worked for over 20 different Board teams, supervised two office moves and managed some exceptional staff members who have helped her deliver TOPRA’s strategic objectives.
Her personal passion however has been to ‘professionalise’ regulatory affairs to enable it to be an attractive career choice for exceptional young scientists from diverse backgrounds. This has been achieved with a clear competency framework, a professional development pathway, opportunities for postgraduate education and an internationally recognised professional registration scheme. She initiated the discussion which produced the apprenticeship standard and pressed for TOPRA to become a member of the Science Council to allow it to award the CSci and RSci accreditations. She has also been involved on a personal level with the Institute of Association Management (now Leadership), The Professional Associations Research Network and Science Council activities to help TOPRA as an organisation develop to be the best it can be.
At the recent Fellows evening outgoing Chair of the Fellowship Appointment Panel and past President of TOPRA, Alan Hunter, presented Lynda with her Honorary Fellowship Certificate. He reflected on their earliest years in BIRA, ESRA and TOPRA as young regulatory professionals and paid tribute to all she has done for TOPRA. We wish her a long and happy retirement!