MILAN, December 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Last month, 55 of Europe's biggest players from across the pharmaceutical drug discovery sector convened for two-and-a-half days as they attended the most disruptive event of the year - GDS International's fourth Next Generation Pharmaceutical Drug Discovery summit (NGP DD EU), held at the Meliá Milano Hotel, Milan, Italy. Europe has been an enduring force in the pharmaceutical industry for decades. However, increased competition due in part to globalisation, economic recession and ICT advancements has levelled the playing field for drug discovery. Wise investment and innovative new technologies are subsequently proving key to staying ahead of competitors. With this in mind, GDS International has created an award to recognise exceptional talent within the sector. Selected as the winners by a panel of 20 senior executives from the R&D functions of global biopharma companies, Paul O'Riordan - CEO of Synexa Life Sciences, and Henning Steinhagen - SVP Head of Global Drug Discovery for Grünenthal, emerged the winners of this year's "Industry Leader of the Year" award for their pioneering new practices within the industry. Synexa was awarded the title for its industry-leading approach to providing biopharma clients with biomarker expertise, analysis and insight; whilst Grünenthal was selected for its reorganization and strategy implementation for global chemistry outsourcing, and creating a new biology platform directed to immuno-inflammatory research. Synexa's CEO, Paul O'Riordan, said: "This award is a tremendous acknowledgment of the hard work we have put in over the past 10 years to develop a biomarker services offering that our clients find really useful. To be honoured in this way by the very clients we strive to satisfy is humbling and extremely rewarding. We will use this vote of confidence to continue pushing boundaries in both the science and business of biomarkers." He continues: "I thought the conference was fantastic. I had some reservations, but the event well exceeded my expectations. The networking opportunities were invaluable - we met exactly the right people and a wide range of potential clients. These people seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to meet us too, which is not always the case at many conferences, and shows how well-selected they were."