From The Editor | June 3, 2024

How DIA Continues To Enhance Its Global Annual Meeting


By Dan Schell, Chief Editor, Clinical Leader

Marwan Fathallah
Marwan Fathallah, President & CEO, DIA

When Marwan Fathallah told me that his first year of being involved with the planning for the DIA Global Annual Meeting has been “an incredible journey,” I’m guessing that was an understatement. After all, creating an event that regularly attracts over 5,000 attendees from 40 countries and includes 300+ exhibitors and 180 sessions is a massive undertaking. Fathallah, who was named president and CEO of DIA Global in January 2023, says the 100+ DIA employees combine with a grassroots community of thousands of volunteers and a cadre of regulatory, industry, academia, and science committee members to create a conference full of germane and future-looking topics.

In his article, “Why In The World Should You Come To San Diego?,” he gives an overview of some of the key events and topics covered at this year’s (June 16-20) show. During our interview, I asked him to explain a little more about some of those elements, starting with Global Executive Day (June 18).

“Coming from industry, I felt it was important for us to draw in the movers and shakers — from regulators to pharma to academia,” he says. “This is an invite-only event that has a limited number of attendees, and it offers some great networking opportunities.” Included are presentations on topics such as regulatory convergence and strategies to mitigate supply chain shortages. In addition, there will be a town hall involving FDA representatives talking about reviewing drugs for rare diseases.


Fathallah was especially passionate about the programing designed for students (most students are graduate level and above). This Leaders of Tomorrow track is designed for students and starts on Sunday June 16 with networking and career planning sessions. “Various stakeholders from different functional areas within pharma talk to the students about their experience and how they got to be where they're at,” he explains. “Since this is often these students' first DIA, this Sunday kickoff session helps them prepare for the week.”

Students also have the opportunity to participate in DIA’s long-standing case competition, which this year will focus on AI and drug repurposing. Participants present their solutions to a panel of judges, and one school is awarded the trophy. “We always ensure there are plenty of opportunities for students so they can gain insights into the opportunities that are available to them as well as the topics that are top of mind to our stakeholders.”


Throughout our conversation, Fathallah stressed the importance of incorporating the patient voice in the drug development and clinical trial processes. As such, there is a lot of programming at this year’s meeting focused on the patient, and DIA is even paying for some patients to attend.

One of the most notable sessions will be a keynote presented by Emily and Tom Whitehead. Emily is the first pediatric patient in the world to undergo chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. Emily has been cancer free for more than a decade.

A new addition this year is the Arnold Venture Innovation Session: Better Drug Information for Payers, Physicians, and Patients. “Arnold Ventures is a philanthropic organization providing this unique session that will discuss ways to better communicate the benefits and risks of various medications/therapies and how HCPs can better partner with their patients in the decision-making process pertaining to treatments,” Fathallah says.

Of course, to produce a successful conference year after year means you must ensure your content is engaging, relevant, and new. The staff at DIA has clearly done a good job at that for this year’s event, but they’ve also ramped up that other element that attendees so desperately seek — great networking options. For example, the welcome reception on Sunday night is a celebration of DIA’s 60th anniversary and is being held on the USS Midway. “Hundreds of people have already signed up, and keynote panelists like the Whiteheads and well-known inventor Dean Kamen will be present along with many top pharma executives and regulators,” says Fathallah. “And this year we’ve added a networking reception on the exhibit floor to make sure we are giving our approximately 350 exhibitors the opportunity to interact with their valued stakeholders.”

With a plethora of informative content sessions and a variety of new networking opportunities, be sure to plan your “incredible journey” ahead of time for this year’s DIA Global Annual Meeting.