Meet the EAB: John Vogel

June 1, 2003
Shannon Booth

Applied Clinical Trials

Applied Clinical Trials, Applied Clinical Trials-07-01-2003,

John Vogel, clinical researcher turned consultant, is passionate about outsourcing. He believes that pharmaceutical companies can gain competitive advantages through drug development outsourcing.

John Vogel, clinical researcher turned consultant, is passionate about outsourcing. He believes that pharmaceutical companies can gain competitive advantages through drug development outsourcing. In fact, that's what his company (John R. Vogel Associates, Inc., Wailea, HI) is all about. He provides in-house training and support to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the United States and abroad, as well as contract research organizations and other outsourcing providers.

"I spend about 70% of my time working with pharma companies-helping them understand how to outsource, helping them choose outsourcing partners for specific projects and recognize and solve problems with their outsourced projects," he explains. The other 30% of the time he's meeting with the other side of the equation-the outsourcing providers.

Top: Vogel was presented with an award for his decade of service to the Partnerships with CROs conference. Bottom: Vogel has condensed his workshop into a two-hour seminar for pharmaceutical company managers.

Although outsourcing is now a mainstay for Vogel, he has had another passion during his career. While at Schering-Plough in the 1980s he accepted the position of senior director, International Medical Research, with the mandate from his superior to determine whether global clinical trials were helping the company to develop new products. He proved that they were.

Vogel became an advocate of worldwide drug development, a position that was somewhat unpopular during the 1980s. Oftentimes at DIA meetings he would find himself debating the pros and cons of global clinical trials.

"There was no end to the people who would volunteer to argue against my position," he says. "At that time the majority opinion was that trials conducted abroad were inferior in quality and less likely to be accepted by the FDA." Both of these views turned out to be incorrect. Now, thanks in part to Vogel's certainty and promotion, global trials are ubiquitous.

Vogel was right about global clinical trials being the way of the future for drug development and he thinks he's right about outsourcing. So far he's on track. His training workshops are so popular that he often ends up conducting 10 or 12 sessions for a company when only one was originally scheduled.

One of his current interests is developing clients in Japan and other Asian countries.

"The CRO industry is in its infancy there. Asian pharmaceutical companies and CROs can benefit from lessons learned by their western counterparts," he says. Earlier this year he was invited to give a presentation at the annual meeting of the Japanese Contract Research Organizations Association, and it went well. Next month he will do a workshop for a Japanese pharma company.

Lucky break

Vogel's start in the pharmaceutical industry came about by happenstance. During his senior year as a psychology major at Rutgers University, he noticed a handwritten note in the psychology department announcing a job opening at Squibb, a local pharmaceutical company. When he arrived for the interview, he was surprised to see that the interviewer was a fellow student from Rutgers. She had thought Vogel would be perfect for the job, but couldn't remember his name. She posted the notice hoping he'd see it and be interested. He got the job.

Whistler, British Columbia, is a favorite skiing destination. Sailing is something that both John and his wife, Roberta, enjoy; and Maui offers plenty of hiking spots.

Two years later, his boss accepted a faculty position at Rutgers and offered to fund Vogel's graduate work with his research grant. During that time Vogel was so interested in research that he submitted his own grant proposals to the Sigma Xi Foundation. Vogel received funding and hired a graduate student to be his research assistant while he was still doing research for his boss/professor.

When Vogel had finished his graduate work in 1968, he returned to Squibb and studied brain–behavior relationships and developed in vivo assays for predicting therapeutic activity in novel compounds. One of the "conflict" tests he developed has been widely adopted as the standard in vivo assay for anti-anxiety activity.

A unique laboratory

Vogel and his wife, Roberta, met when he took a job at the company where she worked. She says that she was struck by the enthusiasm he showed for his work and that "his laboratory was always bustling with activity."

"John never seemed to have enough laboratory space," she says. "He needed a quiet, dark area for the conflict test that he was developing. His colleagues were amused when one day he cleaned out a nearby utility closet and transformed it into the new conflict test lab. When John announced his resignation from the company, his staff placed a plaque on the closet door. It read, "The John R. Vogel, PhD, Memorial CNS Pharmacology Closet."

Moving on

After spending nearly 10 years in the laboratory, Vogel was ready to move on. He accepted a clinical research position with Bristol Laboratories. Although he was not a physician, Vogel felt that his training in biostatistics and experimental design had provided him with valuable skills for clinical research.

While at Bristol Laboratories, Vogel became acquainted with Alexander Lane, MD, who was vice president of Clinical Research. Two years later Lane joined Schering-Plough to become president of Research and Development. He offered Vogel the position of director of CNS Clinical Research. Later, Lane asked him to assume the position of senior director of International Clinical Research. It was during this time that he became a proponent of global clinical trials. Eventually, Vogel was appointed vice president of Worldwide Clinical Research.

New career

After 11 years in clinical research Vogel grew concerned that, without a medical degree, his career opportunities in pharma industry companies were limited. A psychologist friend suggested that he try consulting. He took the advice and has never looked back.

Vogel's involvement in professional organizations helped to further his career as a consultant. He served as chairperson of the International Medical Affairs Committee of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMA), now the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). It was through some of his PMA contacts that he got started as a consultant.

"Several of them agreed to give me a chance as a drug development consultant, and I saw an opportunity to focus my consulting on outsourcing." For a decade, Vogel also served as chairperson of the annual "Partnerships with CROs and Other Outsourcing Providers" conference.

At the 2001 Partnerships conference, he was presented with an award in recognition of his involvement with the conference for 10 consecutive years. He now leads a workshop at the conference each year.

He also chairs the Town Meeting, "Strategies for Maximizing the Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness of Drug Development" at the annual DIA meeting. His involvement in these conferences and his articles published in Applied Clinical Trials and Global Outsourcing Review helped to establish him as an expert on drug development outsourcing.

"For years after they first read John's articles in ACT, several readers a year called me in a panic when they discovered that one of the magazines with his articles was missing from their collection," says Applied Clinical Trials Editor-in-Chief, Jane Ganter. "Many of the articles that we publish, particularly those about regulations, become outdated after a time, but it appears that many of the principles in Vogel's series of articles on outourcing are timeless."

Looking ahead

In the future Vogel wants to do more work with managerial level people at pharmaceutical companies.

"Successful outsourcing requires senior management vision and support," he says. "However, senior managers do not read articles on outsourcing, do not attend outsourcing conferences, and for the most part, do not participate in on-site outsourcing workshops."

The challenge that he sees is "how to reach the decision makers and help them understand their critical role in achieving value through outsourcing." He wants them to provide direction and support for outsourcing. Something that, he says, doesn't currently happen enough in the industry. Because of this, he has condensed his workshop into a two-hour seminar which pharmaceutical companies can videotape and show to their managers around the world.

Vogel's success as a consultant comes from his understanding of and experience with the pharmaceutical industry. He also attributes it to his "ability to anticipate success rather than to fear failure."

And time to play

Many professionals get so wrapped up in their work that they have little time for recreation, but Vogel is as passionate about play as he is about work. Living in Hawaii gives him ample opportunity to enjoy the sand, sun, and surf.

Working from home means he can escape as needed. Most mornings he takes an early run on the beach with his wife before stepping into the office to contact clients on the mainland. Maui offers plenty of great hiking spots, and sailing is something that they both enjoy.

They have sailed in the Chesapeake Bay and among the Society Islands (Tahiti). They are also scuba divers, enjoying the fish, whales, sea turtles, and non-aggressive sharks in the Hawaiian waters. They are also avid skiers and the slopes at Whistler, British Columbia, are a favorite destination.

Shannon Booth is a temporary assistant editor of Applied Clinical Trials and a former assistant editor of the magazine.