As the novel coronavirus races around the globe, a growing number of conference organizers are cancelling, postponing, or virtualizing their medical meetings, biotech gatherings, and scientific summits.

Similar moves are being made in many industries, but the pressure seems to be elevated in health care to call off conferences where the virus could spread. After all, many would-be attendees are coming from and returning to hospitals on the front lines of caring for people with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, or who are vulnerable to it.

It’s too early to estimate the magnitude of the financial losses for organizers, attendees, and service industry professionals — not to mention the opportunity costs of deals and partnerships that could have been struck had meetings gone on as planned.

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But as Cornell chemist Dave Collum put it on Twitter:

Here’s a list of some of the most notable meeting disruptions in health care, in chronological order of when those events had been scheduled to occur. We’ll continue to update this post as we learn about other conferences.

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March 2020

  • The World Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit is being postponed. It was originally slated to be held March 5-7 near Los Angeles. It has yet to be rescheduled.
  • The Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM, has canceled its annual meeting. It had been slated for March 8-11 in San Diego.
  • The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, or CROI, is being moved online, in place of its original venue in Boston. It will be happening March 8-11.
  • The big health-tech industry meeting HIMSS has been canceled for the first time in its nearly 60-year history. It was supposed to have been held March 9-13 in Orlando. President Trump had been slated to speak at the event.
  • Bio Asia, the regional gathering put on by the trade group BIO, has been canceled. It had been slated for March 10-11 in Tokyo.
  • The investment bank Barclays is moving its conference for health care investors online. The event had originally been scheduled for March 10-12 in Miami.
  • AMR, the conference focused on antimicrobial resistance, is being postponed. Organizers cited a ban on events in the conference’s host city of Basel, Switzerland. The gathering, originally slated for March 12-13, is being rescheduled for August.
  • The Future of Individualized Medicine conference, put on by Scripps Research’s Eric Topol, has been canceled. It was supposed to have been held March 12-13 in San Diego.
  • The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, or AAAAI, has canceled its annual meeting. It was supposed to have been held in Philadelphia March 13-16.
  • South by Southwest, or SXSW, has been canceled; organizers cited a decision made by the festival’s host city of Austin, Tex. SXSW spans many industries, but in the past few years it has increasingly drawn attendees working in biotech and health care. The festival was supposed to have happened March 13-22.
  • The Cognitive Neuroscience Society, or CNS, is moving its annual meeting online. The gathering was supposed to have happened in Boston in March 14-17.
  • Call-on Congress, an advocacy event put on by the patient group Fight Colorectal Cancer, is being moved online. Instead of traveling to Washington D.C., colorectal cancer patients will stay home to listen to live-streamed speakers and send emails to lawmakers. It will be happening March 15-16.
  • The Society of Toxicology has canceled its annual meeting. The event was supposed to have been held March 15-19 in Anaheim, Calif.
  • The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, or ACMG, has canceled its annual meeting. The gathering was supposed to have been held March 17-21 in San Antonio, Tex.
  • The American Organization for Nursing Leadership, or AONL, has canceled its annual meeting. It had been scheduled for March 18-21 in Nashville, Tenn.
  • The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, or NCCN, is postponing its annual meeting. The gathering of oncologists had been scheduled for March 19-22 in Orlando.
  • The American Medical Informatics Association, or AMIA, has canceled its informatics summit. The event had been scheduled for March 23-26 in Houston.
  • The American Chemical Society has canceled its national meeting, known as ACS. It was supposed to have happened in Philadelphia March 22-26.
  • The Muscular Dystrophy Association, or MDA, is postponing its clinical and scientific conference. It had been scheduled to happen March 22-25 in Orlando.
  • Bio-Europe Spring, which had been planned to be held in Paris, is being moved online. It is set to happen March 23-27.
  • The American College of Healthcare Executives has canceled its Congress on Healthcare Leadership. The event had been slated to be held March 23-26 in Chicago.
  • The Drug, Chemical & Associated Technologies Association, or DCAT, has canceled its conference. It had been scheduled to be held March 23-26 in New York City.
  • The startup accelerator Y Combinator’s biannual Demo Day, scheduled for March 23, is being moved online. The event is typically held in person in San Francisco. It’s a chance for Y Combinator’s latest batch of 250 startups — an increasing number of which are working in biology — to make their pitch to investors.
  • The Precision Medicine Leaders’ Summit is being postponed. It had originally been scheduled for March 25-26 in Boston. It is being rescheduled for September 1-2.
  • The Virtual Medicine conference, or vMed, has been canceled. It had been scheduled to be held March 25-26 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
  • The Decennial International Conference on Healthcare Associated Infections has been canceled. It had been scheduled for March 26-30 in Atlanta.
  • The collaborative Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics, or OHDSI, has canceled its European symposium. The event, originally scheduled for March 27-29 in Oxford, U.K., will be replaced with a virtual “study-a-thon” that will be focused on generating real-world evidence that can inform the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Massachusetts trade group MassBio is postponing its annual meeting. It had originally been scheduled for March 27-28 in Cambridge, Mass. It is being rescheduled for August 26=27.
  • The American College of Cardiology’s big cardiology meeting, known as ACC, has been canceled. It had been scheduled to take place in Chicago from March 28-30.
  • The Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, known as ENDO, has been canceled. It was supposed to have happened March 28-31 in San Francisco.
  • The Society of Gynecologic Oncology, or SGO, has canceled its annual meeting on women’s cancer. It had been scheduled for March 28-31 in Toronto.

April 2020

  • The nonprofit Binaytara Foundation is postponing its Summit on National and Global Cancer Health Disparities. The gathering was supposed to have been held April 3-4, in Bellevue, Wash., near Seattle, one of the communities in the U.S. that’s been hardest hit by the coronavirus. It is being rescheduled for the fall.
  • The Experimental Biology conference, or EB, has been canceled. It had been set to be held April 4-7 in San Diego.
  • The Health Care Systems Research Network, or HCSRN, has canceled its annual conference. It had been scheduled for April 8-10 in Philadelphia.
  • DTC National, a conference for pharma marketers, is being postponed. It was originally scheduled to be held April 22-24 in Boston. It is being rescheduled for August.
  • The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine has canceled its Cell & Gene Meeting on the Med, or Med20. It had been scheduled for April 15-17 in Barcelona.
  • The American College of Physicians, or ACP, has canceled its annual scientific meeting. The Internal Medicine Meeting had been scheduled to take place from April 23-25 in Los Angeles.
  • The American Association for Cancer Research is postponing its big annual meeting, known as AACR. The gathering of oncologists and cancer researchers had been scheduled for April 24-29 in San Diego. A rescheduled date is being planned for later this year.
  • The American Academy of Neurology, or AAN, has canceled its annual meeting. It had been scheduled for April 25-May 1 in Toronto.
  • The Symposium on Artificial Intelligence for Learning Health Systems, or SAIL, is being postponed. A new conference organized by medical AI researchers in academia, the event had been slated to be held in Bermuda April 27-29. The rescheduled date has yet to be announced.

May 2020

  • The Conference on Research in Computational Molecular Biology, or RECOMB, is being postponed. It had been scheduled for May 10-13 in Padova, a city in northern Italy, one of the global regions that has been hardest hit by the virus. The rescheduled date has yet to be announced.
  • The Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists, or ACLPS, has canceled its annual meeting. It had been scheduled for May 28-30 in Iowa City, Iowa.
  • The American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, is moving its big annual meeting online. The gathering of oncologists, perhaps the most important of the year, had originally been scheduled for May 29-June 2 in Chicago.

June 2020

  • The Bay Area Symposium on Viruses, or BayViro, has been canceled. It had been scheduled for June 5 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • The International Association of Bioethics’ World Congress of Bioethics is being moved online. It was originally scheduled for June 19-21 in Philadelphia.

September 2020

  • The face-to-face aspect of conferences likely won’t be able to be replaced with virtual meetings. But from a work perspective, this is an opportunity to create something new. An event is ultimately just a way to develop new business opportunities/learn. So why not use this as an opportunity to re-think other ways of accomplishing the same goal VS settle for the virtual version of your event?

    For example, if your goal is to source new companies/technologies for BD purposes, you can use Legit.ai to do that + speak with the experts behind these. So that’s still another way of accomplishing the same goal, despite the canceled conference/coronavirus.

  • DIA Europe in Brussels, 10,000 attendees, which was supposed to focus on the incentives reviews of the European Commission starting next week, is now moved back to June.

  • Back in the 1980’s, I worked in the marketing department of a very large company. A big trade show was coming up, and the VP of Marketing was asking “Does it really make sense to attend trade shows?” His first point was it was so expensive to have a booth and fit it out. Next, it would tie up nearly all of the marketing staff for a week. The marketing group at headquarters would be nearly empty because everybody would be at the show. And, “Everybody in the business knows who we are.” In the end, we did appear at the show, probably because we’d been doing it for more than 20 years and habits like that are hard to break. But it’s a question that really needs to be asked more often.

    2020 may be the year that finally breaks this 19th-century marketing vehicle. In the 1980’s, the commercial Internet had not really appeared, so we had few marketing channels. Trade shows were a big one, but trade magazines were bigger. Today, the Internet has long since made such channels largely obsolete, and maybe covid-19 will provide the little boost needed to overcome inertia and push them off the cliff.

  • I understand the fear of holding big conferences, and the suggestion of use of digital platforms to hold conferences. However, this would drastically reduce the face to face connection between participants that often leads to new ideas out of casual conversations. Lets face it, 75% of communication is by body language, so computer conversations are drastically limited – OK for passing on knowledge, but not for supporting those accidental connections that are often the germ of a new development.

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