A year-end message from TOPRA’s Chief Executive (2021)

Posted on 20 December 2021

As 2021 draws to a close, I hope that you, your family and your colleagues are well and will have the opportunity to relax over the festive period after what has been another dramatic year dominated by COVID-19. Many of you will have sad memories of people no longer with us or who are still suffering from its impact – our thoughts are with you.

When I look back over the past year, my initial feeling is one of immense pride in the regulatory profession. The significant role that it has played in the successful development and rollout of the vaccines, and now the booster programme, has laid the foundations for tackling the pandemic. This has been complemented by the diagnostic tools the medical devices community has helped develop and the efforts of the veterinary community in preventing the emergence of other zoonotic diseases. This all contributes to leading us out of this health crisis. A huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in this.

While TOPRA learned a lot in 2020, 2021 provided its challenges; however, I am delighted to report that we have made all of our learning and networking available online. This means that we have been able to continue to provide the knowledge sharing opportunities that are so essential for the profession at this time.

Our new communities platform is becoming more popular as an engagement tool for members. We have been building on the success of our longstanding networks with new subgroups in medical devices (Combination products and Software as a medical device). Free webinars and virtual meetings held by our member networks have provided further outlets for debate and networking.

We successfully released our first courses on Topclass (our new Elearning platform), while our new ATMP module was delivered in September, with 47 delegates in attendance. We are very pleased that almost 30 students have started our MSc Regulatory Affairs programme during the 2020/2021 academic year. We were also happy to have been able to introduce Education Bursaries to support the development of professionals living and working in low-to-middle income countries for use in 2022 and 2023.

Our Annual Symposium in September this year was online and saw increased participation from the veterinary sector. This was also the first time we have worked with SÚKL. Thank you to everybody who contributed to making it such a valuable event. We are now excited to be working with AGES as we prepare for our first hybrid Symposium in Vienna next October. We are exploring how additional networking and social opportunities can be provided.

After hosting the TOPRA Awards for Regulatory Excellence online last year, I was thrilled that we were able to hold it in person in November at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London. It was good to see so many friends of TOPRA again to have the opportunity to celebrate the profession and the achievements of our winners. Huge thanks to our partners and sponsors for continuing to support this annual celebration of regulatory affairs. We hope to host it in person again in 2022, and that you will be able to join us.

In addition to the Symposium and the Awards, there are a number of other things on the horizon that make me optimistic about the year ahead. We will be introducing a new Global SPIN focusing on members' needs with global growth/ROW markets, while new developments will be released shortly to improve our app. We will continue to run our Veterinary Regulation workshops to support professionals in its implementation, and are introducing a new course on the requirements for Global IVD. The first cohorts of apprentices are due to complete the programme next year and become Regulatory Affairs Specialists. Meanwhile, we have recently been joined by several new staff members who I am confident will quickly become assets to the organisation and to the support we provide the regulatory community.

I want to end by sharing my gratitude for the contribution from our wonderful team of staff, volunteers and members over the past 12 months. They have given so much of their valuable time, alongside their work and personal commitments.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and festive season. I look forward to working with you in a prosperous 2022.