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Association Bisnow
SEPTEMBER 11, 2007





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How intimidating is leading the American Assn of Pharmaceutical Scientists, where 58% of the 13,000 members have Ph.D.s? Executive Director John Lisack tells Bisnow it’s actually not too bad. “They’re smart, talented and enjoy the interactive exercises during team-building.” At one event this year, teams had to build a pyramid using only newspapers, paper clips and masking tape. Another time, they had sushi-making and wine-tasting seminars. John says recreation—scuba diving, fishing, golfing—develops a sense of solidarity that makes problem-solving easier.

John sports a tie from the US Open at Pinehurst. Though he wasn’t in the pro field, he's been an avid golfer since grad school, and this year treated himself to a complete set of X20 Callaways. You can often find John at RTJ with his good friend Cris Collie, CEO of the Worldwide ERC. (If you don’t know what RTJ is, you’re not a golfer.)

John endorses team-building for AAPS’ top cadre and hosts two retreats a year. The annual Leadership Retreat has morning problem-solving exercises related to goals for the coming year; the afternoon is devoted to developing friendships. At the Pan Pacific in Vancouver in March, participants included board members (who used the retreat for one of their four quarterly meetings), plus key staff and project leaders.

John in his Arlington office. AAPS represents scientists who do research for large industrial firms—like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer—as well as academic institutions and government. It’s not a lobbying organization, but a forum for exchange of information to advance science, develop medicines and improve public health.

AAPS also hosts a President’s Retreat, geared toward the future business agenda. It includes the board as well as leadership of AAPS focus groups (ones with expertise in manufacturing, engineering and quality, for example). The last President’s Retreat was in August at the Omni in Atlanta. John says they’ve scouted the Disney Institute in Orlando for ’08. “The Disney staff conducts workshops and seminars on what makes Disney successful. We want to learn from their experience.”

The leadership and staff meet two other times during the year—at the AAPS National Biotechnology Conference (NBC) in the spring and the AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition in the fall. The '08 NBC will be held in Toronto this June—about 1,500 attendees are expected. Over 9,000 will attend the Annual Meeting this November in San Diego, where corporations and vendors will sponsor more than 1,100 booths that showcase the latest pharmaceutical equipment and techniques. The conferences actually kick off a year in advance at “jamborees” where volunteers select the programming for each event and learn what the host city can offer attendees.

John also loves tennis. He and his son are ranked 10th in the nation for father-son doubles, and he has a certificate from the U.S. Tennis Association to prove it! He's also not bad at hoops: He went to the University of Massachusetts on a basketball scholarship, ranking No. 12 on the national list of field goal percentage leaders. John grew up in Allendale, NJ, and came to DC in 1970 to serve as an officer at Ft. Belvoir after ROTC. He started as a director at the American Society for Engineering Education, then became CEO of the National Association of Personnel Consultants, CEO of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, and CEO of the American Society of Plant Biologists. He joined AAPS five years ago, after being tapped by independent recruiter Jerry Hurley.

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