Updated: Mar 5, 2021
The biotech industry brings innovative solutions to one of the most important spheres in human existence – the health industry. Despite being a highly-regulated industry, the need to satisfy providers, researchers, patients, shareholders, payers, and regulatory bodies alike while staying ahead of the competition makes the industry highly sought-after in the news. Given the huge importance of the industry, it is not surprising that there has been an exceptional amount of growth in the biotechnology industry in recent years and the outlook continues to positive for the New Year. In fact, the industry is expected to surpass $1 trillion in 2021, partly due to thousands of compounds that are currently in the final stages of clinical development, together with hundreds of new products awaiting approvals in 2021.
Here are some of the top trends in biotechnology that the world should expect to see in 2021:
1. Collaboration and Partnerships with Biotech Startups to Further Innovation .
Research in the life sciences has continuously expanded and evolved over the last decade. The collaborative nature of the industry also implies that a lot of new discoveries are based on past and present learnings. Like Pfizer partnering up with BioNtech to develop an mRNA vaccine against COVID19, in 2021, biotechnology firms are expected to continue to collaborate and join forces to further drug development. Perhaps a league of biotech companies coming together to position the life science industry as a whole to push our industry further. For instance, in 2019, Twist Bioscience, TeselaGen, Arzeda, and Labcyte collaborated to set up a world-class DNA Assembly platform. The main objective of the collaboration was to solve the DNA supplies’ need of the four companies. As the world rapidly takes to the convenience of healthcare solutions through technology, the Pharma sector is presented with the challenge of ensuring that their workforce is as skilled at addressing this demand and can keep up with the speed of adoption by customers. Pharma firms need to upskill and train their workers on ways to efficiently work with customers at various touchpoints.
2. Genomics and Gene Editing Further Breakthroughs
Gene editing allows us to influence certain traits that are inherited by new living cells when new proteins are formed through the division of existing cells. These traits, called phenotypes, determine the cell’s longevity, its ability to withstand illness or injury, and several other factors. By editing these phenotypes through techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9, scientists have already have created successful therapies for severe diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. As a result of breakthroughs in this field, we’re likely to witness the speeding up of the development of forms of treatment known as “precision medicine,” where drugs can be designed to match the genetic characteristics of individual patients, making them more effective, as well as less probability to cause unwanted side-effects. The technology has also been utilized to create a “lab on a chip,” customized for fast detection of coronavirus infection. A handheld device capable of detecting if people are infected, without having to rely on inaccurate factors such as unusual temperature or coughing, could be highly beneficial in bringing about a level of normality to our lives. Additionally, methods demonstrated by UK startup Tropic Biosciences, have been utilized to create caffeine-free coffee beans, minimizing the cost and resources spent decaffeinating regular beans. They have also been used in creating disease-resistant bananas, which could transform an industry that currently spends a quarter of its running costs fighting diseases.
3. Faster time-to-market for drug discovery
Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, Machine Learning, Big Data and early-stage experiments involving new technologies are playing substantial roles in reducing the time and costs of bringing new drug formulations to the market. As technology continues to improve, we see our industry turning to the FDA for guidance on how to use artificial intelligence for medical devices. The whole research and development cycle consisting on data management, clinical trials, and testing are currently technologically oriented that Pharma firms are increasingly onboarding ‘health-tech’ partners and tech brands in the journey to drug discovery, hitherto a pure science domain.
4. Greater Focus on Research & Development
As a result of an increased focus on the value of medications, biotechnology companies are more focused than ever about ensuring research and development achieves the needed aims. There will be a push in 2021 to pump in money into letting scientist run experiments for research purposes. As Gene Editing and mRNA brings in new applications into drug development, we see our industry pursuing greater efficacy and effectiveness in therapeutics to meet the needs of patients, while also safeguarding the bottom line. For example, there is research customized to identify medications that can enhance the experience and quality of life for patients in a more meaningful way. This has required biotech and Pharma companies to look into their research and development practices to ensure they are focused and efficient.
5. Digitization & Automation
The biomanufacturing and manufacturing sub-sector of the Pharma industry was amongst the first to embrace automation and digitalization. It was not just about paperless processes, but also to allow robust and scalable quality processes to take place, with reduced scope for human error. Besides, AI and robotic technology have played huge roles in reducing manufacturing downtime as well as product wastage. From a quality angle, automation has brought about human intervention, linked with high contamination risk as well as variability. Researchers and developers are integrating their knowledge to develop and have common access to phase appropriate process development (PD) and bioassay services (BAS), removing manufacturing issues, minimizing their cost of goods, and ensuring adequate preparation for commercialization in advance.