New challenges constantly present themselves within every industry’s sphere. These naturally encourage businesses to evolve their strategies and processes in order to remain competitive and relevant. However, 2020 has been a year like no other. It has, within a matter of months, brought on a whole new set of unforeseen challenges that have had a significant influence on the pharmaceutical landscape. Through this article, we aim to explore the key pharma trends for 2021, most of which have resulted from the events in 2020.
1. Collaborative approach
COVID-19 has, and continues to affect pharma industries, revealing the growing need for cross-industry, cross-regulatory and cross-enterprise collaboration, rather than competition. The importance of a global collaborative approach to research and development to drug manufacturing and market access will be key in tackling pandemics, addressing medical requirements, and providing affordable and accessible healthcare.
The reason vaccines development is accelerating is of course thanks to science and engineering, and greater knowledge, but also better process design, leveraging from guidances such as ICH Q8 and Q9. N.
2. Focus on organisation culture
As the pandemic continues, companies try a combination of on-site and remote working. External events impact the internal working and the general spirit of an organisation. This implies that the focus in the coming months should be to create a culture that motivates and reassures its employees while maintaining a strong image for the company’s customers and stakeholders. The opportunity lies in adopting a new work model that best fits the company and allowing it to engender a fresh culture that provides a common purpose, identity and belonging for all employees, whether they work remotely or on-site.
3. Telemedicine and remote care
Healthcare has always predominantly been encounter-based. However, the pandemic has brought dramatic changes in consumer behaviour through the necessity for social distancing and going contactless. The COVID crisis has given rise to a surge in the number of people turning to telemedicine platforms and online drug delivery services. The call to reinvent healthcare delivery will need to be heeded, with the expected growing demand for digital health tools, which will help physicians treat their patients online. Pharma marketers, can, no doubt use the growing trend in digital healthcare to provide patients with true, research-based facts about various conditions and treatments to counter the misinformation about health and medicine there is, online, at present.
Can we imagine a world where all the temperature readings would be linked to a data lake and help to identify new clusters? The use of contact tracing is another opportunity, if used adequately. The challenge lies in the fine balance of privacy versus community safety.
4. Marketing automation
Marketing automation is another means to tackle the limitations on physical interaction. When combined with content marketing, pharma marketers can find that it can work well, when done right. Built on a solid content marketing strategy, marketing automation can help move leads down the marketing funnel through to conversion with the use of key content, based on where they are in the sales cycle. The pharmaceutical supply chain is typically longer, and automation will spread marketing across multiple channels and automate repetitive functions.
5. Use of machine learning
Pharma organisations will increasingly leverage machine learning to collect and classify large volumes of data that will help provide insights across the manufacturing operations and supply chains to improve operational efficiency. In the pharmaceutical industry, machine learning can enhance quality control, minimise downtime of equipment, analyse content in various records, monitor the growth of microorganisms, streamline maintenance and also predict potential issues that may arise.
If you have not already introduced machine learning to your organisation, you could read more about the difference between AI and Machine Learning through this series of short YouTube AI video tutorials. StatQuest is also a great way to start your learning curve.
6. Focus on disease prevention
Among the top pharma trends for 2021 is the shifting focus of governments from the treatment of disease to its prevention, a fact that will alter the course of big pharmaceutical companies in the future. Developing new medicines that can cure incurable diseases or prevent them remains a challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. Alzheimer’s Disease and certain cancers make the list for such disease conditions, requiring not just greater investments in R&D, but also greater successes in the discovery of innovative treatments.
7. New technologies in the supply chain
The pharma industry’s work suffered during the pandemic due to the disruption of supply chains. This fuelled the time-consuming and costly consideration to shift manufacturing from vulnerable and impacted locations to more secure, less impacted markets, like Singapore.
Supply chains are also becoming more patient-centric through the increased use of digital tools. Technological innovation will positively impact the drug supply chain in the aspects of time, safety and manpower.
You will have heard or read about the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech which must be stored at about -70°C (-94°F) to remain viable. While it was initially doubted whether these cold storage requirements would be met for delivery across the world, Pfizer has now developed packaging and storage innovations to be fit for purpose for the locations where vaccinations will occur. They have specially designed, temperature-controlled thermal shipping containers utilising dry ice to maintain the recommended storage temperature conditions of -70°C±10°C for up to 10 days unopened, making it possible to distribute the vaccine quickly and efficiently.
AI and robotics will also be increasingly used with a view to reduce the production cycle and associated costs and improve process efficiency.
8. Rise in digital pharmaco-vigilance
The pharmaceutical industry is steadfastly seeing an increase in the amount of data from sources such as the computerisation of patients’ health records, clinical trials, market research surveys, pharmacogenomics and proteomics and more. This data is of immense value to pharma companies, enabling them to make a significant difference in the outcome of a product life-cycle. The foundation for the much-needed pharmacovigilance – the process of identifying and responding to drug safety issues, can be Big Data Analytics. The integration and analysis of the data in real-time would help to shed light on safety concerns that could seriously affect public health as well as a company’s reputation.
9. Personalised medicine
Expected to be one of the most favoured pharma trends in the coming years, personalised medicine has already started with customisation within marketing campaigns. Collecting and storing patient data is enabling the delivery of personalised messages with regard to medicine or disease conditions in an effort to educate as well as to check patients’ progress. In the future, we can expect customised drugs for patients, based on medical records.
10. Gene and cell therapies
The first-ever gene therapy was approved by the FDA in 2017, for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Since then, gene and cell therapies have doubled in growth, yet the challenges with scaling the gene and cell therapy model from development through commercialization, remain. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, however, expects the agency to approve between 10 and 20 cell and gene therapies a year through 2025.
Tessa Therapeutics, a Singapore-based clinical-stage cell therapy company that is focused on developing next-generation cancer treatments through cell therapies has also been making significant strides in this field. The company expects its state-of-the-art GMP cell therapy manufacturing facility to be ready in 2021, which will significantly improve its in-house production capabilities, ensuring that patients will benefit faster from their cell therapies.
These pharma trends for 2021 will require the industry to take stock and look at the learnings gleaned from this year and suitably prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.
At No deviation, we deliver patient-centric processes and engineering solutions for the pharmaceutical, life sciences, food and beverage, and medical technology industries. Please get in touch if you have any questions or require our commissioning, qualification and validation services.
You can visit our website to know more about the solutions we offer.
Pierre is a Chemical Engineer and the CEO of No deviation. He likes to develop a team vision for quality accountability and innovation. He is hugely optimistic and sees the opportunity in every task he undertakes.