As Ask BPOG morphs into Ask BioPhorum, are you asking enough questions of the community?

Since 2013, Ask BPOG has become a great asset for the industry, with more than 3,000 questions being posted and 11,000 responses given. BioPhorum’s member-only Q&A facility has helped companies benchmark their practices and has even helped them avoid some unwise decisions around investments.

From March 2020, Ask BPOG is being renamed Ask BioPhorum to tie-in with the wider BioPhorum brand.

“At different times four leaders have told me, independently, that Ask BPOG (BioPhorum) has justified membership on its own,” explained Tony White, one of BioPhorum’s founders.

Elaine Stokes, facilitator for the Development Group Phorum, has seen some huge benefits when members use Ask BioPhorum. “My favorite thread was when a participant posted a question about observing reduced column lifetimes. Responses from participants indicated other companies were trying to understand the same problem. The column producer was contacted using the Ask BioPhorum evidence and it realized it had a problem with the column batch. It addressed the problem and everyone was happy! I can only imagine the amount of time and resources that might have been spent by different companies all trying to understand the same problem.”

Ask BioPhorum is so valuable to the Fill Finish (FF) Phorum that it recently asked Dan O’Mahony, Director, Sterile & Validation at Merck Inc, to present on a leadership call about how they use the tool and extract value for their company. By O’Mahony’s records, in 2019 Merck posted 14 questions in FF, both tactical and strategic, and answered between 30–40.

In one instance, O’Mahony said, “We posted a question overnight while an agency was inspecting a site, and in the morning we had several helpful responses about how other companies would deal with the matter that was of interest to the inspector. Strategically, we use it to understand how our peers are reading standards and if we are doing something similar. We have also used it when making decisions about technology to understand what others are using and their approaches.”

Merck reorganized its engagement with FF approximately one year ago, and one major component was how it supported Ask BioPhorum. “We decided that responding to questions was important for our company,” said O’Mahony. “We thought we could get more value out of Ask BioPhorum, but only if we were prepared to put the effort in—not just by asking questions but responding to them, too.”

O’Mahony or his L2 colleague assess all questions posted in FF, and they decide if Merck Inc. will answer. “We respond to most questions ourselves if we can; if not, then we will hand it to a subject matter expert within our company, and then track the question.”

Before submitting a question, he suggested that users should carefully consider how they construct the question. “I always try and put myself in the mind of the responder and pose a shorter, closed-question if I can. We have some example questions, as a menu to help show our people how to frame questions well. We also close the loop when the responses come back, thanking those who have contributed and also distribute the Ask BioPhorum summaries to our on-site people so they are up-to-speed with what their peers in other companies are doing and saying.”

O’Mahony’s presentation and Merck Inc’s approach have triggered a lot of debate for FF leaders, and White thought that the full potential of Ask BioPhorum is yet to be realized. “So we have set up an internal group to ensure our facilitators are consistently supporting our members with the best advice. Once rebranded, we will make sure that all workstreams will have a short refresher session on Ask BioPhorum during a team call in Q2.”

However, if you want to get ahead of the game and make sure your representatives are exploiting the tool to the max, you can download our helpful one-page guide here. Or contact your facilitator or Scott Ewan on, who is championing internal support group.

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