COVID-19 has continued to dominate the headlines as we begin 2021. While mass media outlets focus closely on the current pandemic, those of us in the biotech industry know that future preparedness is just as important.
In addition to pandemic research and development, other biopharma trends will get their share of headlines in the coming months as well. Let’s take a look at the 2021 biopharma predictions demanding our attention.
Rapid Pandemic Response
No one could have predicted how the pandemic would change healthcare systems, let alone the biopharmaceutical industry. As 2021 kicks off, the focus has now been on positive vaccine news and a renewed focus on timeliness.
While researchers have been lauded for rapid developments in diagnostic tools, therapies, and vaccines, the question remains as to how measures will be put into place even faster should another pandemic emerge. The science is there, as well as the capacity for development. These processes are often slowed down by government regulations. How companies navigate obstacles and associated biopharma risks when operating under pressure will be important considerations in 2021 and beyond.
We expect biopharmaceutical research and development to be pushed even further in multiple sectors. First, the public-private alignment got fast-tracked all over the world. Governmental efforts to engage with the private sector to plan and prepare for future pandemics are critical. Work on therapeutics and antivirals will also continue, with allocations available from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to improve upon available countermeasures within the United States.
Mergers and Acquisitions
With a focus on directing resources to rapid pandemic resources, the first half of 2020 saw an overall increase in merger and acquisition activity, according to PharmaNewsIntelligence. This suggests mergers and acquisitions will continue well into 2021 as an important biopharma trend.
One of the biggest 2020 moves was the $4.9 billion acquisition of Forty Seven by Gilead Sciences, Inc., completed in April 2020. A 2020 trend overall, however, appeared to be smaller moves by companies, perhaps due to uncertainty over the pandemic and obstacles to acquiring funding. Observers predict mergers and acquisitions in 2021 will remain well within the pandemic response sector, including medical devices, therapies, and vaccine development. Drug companies specializing in fresh discoveries and innovation within the pharmaceutical industry will see the most interest.
Precision Medicine and Oncology
Oncology will remain an important area for biopharmaceutical companies, as expected trends in the field have come to fruition. With the rise in precision medicine in treating cancers, health professionals are looking at improvements in not only diagnoses, but reactions to medication. A continued research focus within oncology may be pharmacogenomics, the study of how genetics play a part in a patient’s response to medications.
The influx of gene therapies as they relate to not only cancer cells, but the areas of regenerative medicine and rare diseases, will also continue well into 2021 and beyond. In the area of cell and gene therapy, the FDA expects to see anywhere between 10-20 related approvals through 2025, an impressive feat considering challenges that may exist with FDA approval for your project.
Growth in the Global Drug Market
According to Reuters, global spending on prescription medicines will reach nearly $1.5 trillion in 2021.
The United States is expected to continue leading the pharmaceutical market as record numbers of new drugs become available over the next five years. The institute reports expected advances within the oncology, autoimmune, and diabetes drug markets, in addition to innovations in areas not as well-covered, such as autoimmune, metabolic, and nervous system disorders.
Adapting Clinical Trials to Remote Operations
The global pandemic has touched all aspects of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, including clinical trials, largely an in-person endeavor up to this point.
Throughout 2020, trial sites were forced to shut down or delay planned research, and collaboration went virtual. Enterprising researchers have had to find ways to handle operations remotely, collect data virtually, and keep tabs on clinical trials in ways that do not involve on-site visits at the risk of virus exposure.
The first-ever completely virtual trial was conducted in 2020 by Janssen Pharmaceuticals in its testing of the drug INVOKANA in patients with heart conditions. Enrolled patients received the drug at home, reporting any symptoms based on virtual assessments provided by researchers.
Clinical studies will likely take some time to rebound to levels before the pandemic, as many have had to pause to make room for studies focused on COVID mitigation and vaccine development, on top of social distancing measures in place worldwide. But those that adapt to the changed landscape and consider implications of the previous year in pharma and biotech trial design will return to research more quickly.
Watching Biotech Trends
2020 biopharma trends were anything but predictable. But advancements and innovations in biopharma development suggest meaningful predictions for the biopharma landscape in 2021. If you’d like to discuss what 2021 biopharma predictions mean for you and whether your company would benefit from pharmaceutical consulting, contact us at Treximo today.