CASSS: Celebrating 30 Years of Science
CASSS, formerly the California Separation Science Society, has evolved and grown over its 30 year history - but its commitment to bringing scientists together in a variety of professional fora for discussions of new technologies and dissemination of best practices has never waned. Recently the Board of Directors held a strategic retreat in San Francisco and reaffirmed CASSS' commitment to enabling a global community of industry, academic and regulatory professionals to work together to resolve scientific challenges. This article reflects on the accomplishments of the past and looks ahead to new challenges in the coming years.
Coming of Age of HPLC - and BACC
The history of CASSS actually predates its founding as the Bay Area Chromatography Colloquium (BACC) in 1983. As told by Bob Stevenson in an article titled The Nine Lives of the California Separation Science Society (CASSS) , HPLC grew rapidly in the mid 1970s, albeit off a small base. Many of the vending firms were located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Spectra Physics, Varian, Altex, Pickering, Durum, Bio-Rad, Brownlee Labs are some names. Hewlett Packard had a strong effort inside the research center in Palo Alto. Stevenson credits Bob Brownlee with taking the initiative along with Tom Jupille, Steve Bakalyar, Nelson Cooke, Jerry Higgins, Ron Majors, etc - in starting the first organization in the San Francisco Bay Area to communicate developments in HPLC. Brownlee recognized the importance of a forum that engaged the scientists who were driving the development of this new separation technology and allowed for open discussions and exchange of ideas. Following several successful one-day colloquia, BACC was incorporated as a non-profit association in California in 1983.
In 1986 BACC underwent its first evolution when it took on responsibility for organizing the 10th International Symposium on High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC '86) in San Francisco. With Ron Majors of Hewlett Packard (later Agilent Technologies) as the Symposium Chairman, the meeting achieved record attendance of over 1600, and firmly established BACC as a viable association.
Over time, BACC - and as it later became called - California Separation Science Society or CASSS, went on to successfully organize five HPLC symposia in 1986, 1996, 2006, 2010 and 2012.
Interestingly, just as the young BACC was hitting its stride - it was also becoming obsolete. By the late 1980s little new advancement was forthcoming in HPLC. According to Stevenson, however, "By then, separation science was starting to stir at Genentech, Dionex and ABI in 1990." In 1993 CASSS fortuitously organized the 13th Symposium on HPLC of Proteins, Peptides and Polynucleotides in San Francisco. This symposium brought together scientists from the local biotechnology community with the academics and instrument developers that had previously been the Society's core. And so CASSS began its next evolution.
WCBP and the Emergence of the Biopharmaceutical Industry
In 1995 the FDA held a conference to discuss a new initiative by CBER (the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research) entitled "Well Characterized Biotechnology Pharmaceuticals (WCBP)". The initiative proposed that modern techniques for biopolymer analysis should be used to characterize protein pharmaceuticals rather than the traditional process parameters. Emerging Society leaders, Bill Hancock, then of Genentech and Michael Kunitani, then of Chiron, attended the original WCBP meeting. Together they, with the backing of the FDA, established CASSS' annual WCBP Symposium. Today, WCBP has grown to be one of the most important forums for exchanging scientific and technical information between regulators and the regulated industry. The significance of WCBP to this community cannot be over stated. Discussions in the plenary sessions and the associated workshops have led directly to more science-based regulations. Industry participants gain practical knowledge and insights that help them bring medicines to people who need them - more quickly, safely and effectively.
Inspired by the success of WCBP and motivated by the lively discussions that it generated, a group of individuals including John Dougherty of Eli Lilly & Company, Mark Schenerman of MedImmune, and Nadine Ritter, then of the American Red Cross, proposed development of a forum that would "dive deep" on Chemical Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) issues throughout the lifecycle of a product and thereby foster collaborative technical and regulatory interactions. They created the CMC Strategy Forum series which strives to share information between the regulatory agencies and industry with the goal of merging good scientific and regulatory practices. The CMC Fora have grown to include two annually in the United States, one in Europe and one in Japan. The overall goal is aimed at fostering global interactions and harmonization.
Over time, CASSS became the vehicle by which members of the Society could propose and develop specialized symposia by and for various segments of the community. The CE Pharm and Mass Spec conferences were launched for users of capillary electrophoresis and mass spectrometry in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. They provide forums focused on the practical applications of the respective technologies as they relate specifically to the challenges of biopharmaceutical development - rather than theory or future developments of the technologies. They provide users a unique forum to discuss best practices, emerging issues and new applications with a small, highly targeted network of people.
The past 30 years has seen CASSS evolve from a small, close-knit community of scientists focused on improving HPLC methods and technologies to a global network of scientific professionals dedicated to assuring the safe, efficacious development and manufacture of biopharmaceutical products. While the content has changed dramatically - CASSS' commitment has not. CASSS remains dedicated to bringing together the right people, in the right way (a culture of engagement), at the right time (scientifically relevant subject matter). Our portfolio of meetings continues to evolve as the needs of our community change. Find out more at www.casss.org.
 Stevenson R.: J. Sep. Sci. 28, 105-110 (2005)