Life sciences industry includes all the businesses, companies, and research institutions, which aim at improving the life of living beings. Some of the branches of life sciences industry which are well known include biotechnology, pharmaceutical, biomedicine, cell biology, and others. Hence, any part of science that is connected with research and improvement of humans, animals, and plants is considered under life sciences industry. As this industry directly deals with the health of living beings, it is considered of utmost importance in day to day life.
Every year there are different discoveries in the life science industry. These trends change each year with new inventions, changes, and research. The last year was full of revelations for life sciences industry. The world witnessed COVID-19 pandemic which led to sudden changes such as nationwide lockdowns. The pandemic led to changes in almost every branch of life science. For instance, the pharmaceutical sector was hit and the biotechnology sector was also affected to great extent. The pharmaceutical supply was compromised and the biotechnology companies worked overtime to launch COVID-19 detection tests. Amidst of the commotion caused by pandemic, the hospitals severely suffered to handle the increased influx of infected patient. Companies such as Abbott Laboratories, F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG and others launched tests for identification of COVID-19. Other companies engaged in research related to vaccine for the virus. Thus, the picture of life sciences industry last year was fairly chaotic.
The year, 2020, came to an end with a relief of certain degree as the lockdowns were relaxed to an extent and the world seemed to move with the usual pace again. The year 2021 is expected to bring new changes in the life sciences industry as COVID-19 has changed the picture on a large scale. In addition, other areas of the industry are expected to experience growth in 2021.
Life Sciences Industry in 2021
Telehealth & mHealth expected to experience growth along with rapid adoption of healthcare apps, wearable & sensors
Telehealth is the utilization of digital information and communication technologies such as computers and mobile devices to access and deliver healthcare services remotely. Similarly, mHealth is defined as the use of mobile phones to deliver preventive healthcare services. The use of smartphones and other communication technologies is experiencing growth across the world. Furthermore, the general public is now more concerned with overall wellbeing. Maintaining fitness is now a major trend among the public. This has led to adoption of healthcare apps. Similarly, awareness about chronic disease which needs management at home has also led to adoption of apps, which allow the management of symptoms. These apps also store daily readings which can then be sent as a medical professional for further intervention. Similarly, wearable devices such as fitness bands are also becoming increasingly popular as these are easier to use and can be connected to mobiles to track various fitness factors.
In the last year, telehealth was being used as a measure out of necessity due to lockdowns. However, this adoption is expected to continue in 2021 due to its ease of use. Furthermore, the option to manage chronic disease at home is also expected to drive the growth in the year 2021.
Big data & artificial intelligence is expected to gain increased awareness to reduce clinical burden and conduct predictive analysis
Big data is an emerging technology and is beneficial for various industries. It is also utilized in healthcare for broad range of functions. For instance, when utilized correctly, this novel technology can provide healthcare companies the information needed to streamline customer service processes which is beneficial in personalizing healthcare. Thus, this emerging field is explored in the healthcare sector and hence the adoption is expected to grow making it an important trend in 2021. Furthermore, the pandemic wave last year has changed the approach of healthcare services. The hospitals and clinics witnessed a shortage of healthcare staff which has led to a need of better management of clinical burden. Hence, novel technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) electronic healthcare record (EHR) are being explored which can mitigate clinical burden and enhance the EHR documentation. In addition, AI healthcare settings will be able to predict the length of a patient’s stay which can lead to reduced costs, rescheduling flexibility, prioritizing at-risk patients and others. Mostly, AI can also help healthcare organizations to provide value-based care. Thus, increase in the use of big data and AI in healthcare is an important factor to watch in 2021.
Acceleration in use of genome editing
Genome editing is the ability of making highly precise changes in the DNA sequence of a living organism which leads to customization of its genetic makeup. Thus, this enables the influencing of traits which are very specific that get inherited in new living cells. Furthermore, advanced techniques such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) can be used to manipulate the desired traits. For instance, CRISPR is making advances in treatment of cancer and other lethal diseases. Hence, 2021 could witness the use of CRISPR in the field of precision medicine which in itself is rapidly evolving with time. Thus, this is expected to lead to formulation of customized drugs, which will match the genetic makeup of the patient. This in turn can help in eliminating side effects and making the drugs more effective.
Point-of-care testing for infectious diseases will experience changes
In vitro diagnostics (IVD) are used frequently in the healthcare sector. These are available in form of kits and reagents, which are used to test samples collected from patients such as blood, urine, and tissues. These products lay foundation to diagnosis of various medical ailments such as infectious diseases, cancer, cardiac diseases, and immune system disorders. In addition, the current models of IVD testing in healthcare settings are failing to meet high demand. Thus, with 2021, alternate testing sites could be seen around. These alternatives will include pharmacies that will offer IVD testing at their settings. Some of the major pharmacy chains have already started building the infrastructure to offer IVD testing at their locations. Thus, this would completely redesign the structure of IVD testing across the globe.
COVID-19 vaccine availability and coverage
The world experienced chaos due to COVID-19 last year. More than a million lives were lost over the globe. Thus, the vaccine against this deadly virus is highly anticipated in every corner of the world. Many pharmaceutical & biotechnology companies are expecting the launch of vaccines in 2021. In addition, some nations have already started rolling out vaccines with candidates receiving shots in first quarter of the year. Other nations have several promising vaccines candidates which are expected to roll out in 2021. Currently, there are approximately more than 150 vaccines that are being explored in lab experiments out. 20 vaccines have reached phase I, 16 vaccines are present in phase II, 13 have made to phase III and 2 vaccine candidate are approved and licensed for general use. Some companies with vaccines candidates in phase III trial include, AstraZeneca plc, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) Novavax, Inc. and others. The two commercially available vaccines authorized and recommended by centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) include BNT162b2 by Pfizer, Inc., & BioNTech and mRNA-1273 by ModernaTX, Inc. In addition, countries such as India is expecting the rollout of its two indigenous COVID-19 vaccines, COVAXIN by Bharat Biotech and Covishield by Serum Institute of India (SII) in January 2021.
In addition, with COVID-19 vaccine availability, vaccine coverage is another major trend of 2021. Hence, various public and private organizations are working toward the issue. For instance, COVAX, program under which Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, world health organization (WHO), coalition for epidemic preparedness innovations (CEPI) and United Nations children’s fund UNICEF are working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers. Furthermore, the sole aim of the program is to work with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
Thus, COVID-19 Vaccine availability and coverage is a great factor to watch in 2021, vaccine availability for novel corona virus will vary largely for various nation across the globe. The coverage is also an important aspect to watch for.
Reduced timeline for approval of certain drugs
Obtaining FDA approval for critical drugs such as those used in cancer treatment is lengthy process. This can result in delayed approval of much needed drugs which are essential for saving lives of millions of patients across the globe. Hence, to address this issue, FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence launched a pilot program for oncology therapeutics called Real-Time Oncology Review (RTOR). Furthermore, under this process manufacturers submit clinical trial data as key data analysis. Through this figures are produced so that the FDA can review the data in real time and advise accordingly. Thus, this shortens the application review process to a matter of weeks or even days. Therefore, RTOR is a huge factor that is anticipated to shape the biotechnology industry in 2021.
Pharmaceutical supply, manufacturing and storage over the globe
After the COVID-19 breakout last year, every industry has suffered from new challenges. A lot has changed after the pandemic for every industry. Similarly, pharmaceutical industry was also hit by the pandemic waves. The year 2021 demands flexibility and agility across the entire pharmaceutical supply chain. This includes every part of supply chain such as raw material, intermediate, drug substance, packaging solutions and others. Furthermore, international companies supplying raw materials to finished drug products and medical devices require multiple manufacturing sites to support the different markets they serve. Similarly, manufacturing of pharmaceuticals is a major part of the industry, which is expected to change further in 2021. In addition, these changes are not expected to be just at the individual company level. Furthermore, industry and government wide decisions are expected to be seen. In addition, glocalization is expected to be encouraged in the year 2021 by both industry organizations and governments as the approach will shift to a risk management environment. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is also expected to be seen in new locations other than China such as South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, and others. Furthermore, 2021 can also bring government amendments related to maintaining minimum safety stocks for certain medicines. These could potentially mandate flexible manufacturing capacity for certain drugs as well.