Recent trends in the life sciences sector
Published on March 22, 2022 by Shweta Gupta
Life sciences is a broad field dealing with improving our health and wellbeing. It includes areas such as pharmaceuticals, clinical research, medical devices, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, biomedicine, cell biology and biotechnology. The sector comprises organisations engaged in research and development, commercialisation and technology transfer in these areas.
Recent advancements in industrialisation and the adoption of digital technologies have revolutionised the life sciences sector and transformed the overall treatment paradigm.
This blog focuses on recent trends in the sector:
Trend #1: Intelligent automation
Increasing application of digital tools and platforms, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR), the internet of things (IoT), block chain technology and robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming the game changer in 2022. Advanced digital platforms and software have improved the productivity, accuracy and compliance of a number of tasks in the life sciences sector. According to ArisGlobal’s Market Research Report 2021, nearly 83% of the respondents surveyed from the sector believe their organisations use automation across their R&D processes, whether in terms of automating specific processes using rule-based automation or deploying more advanced technologies. The main benefits of adopting and implementing automation technology include cost savings through efficiency gains and improved quality compliance. The respondents also expect to gain deeper insights to support enhanced decision making, streamline cross-functional collaboration and increase flexibility and scalability. We expect intelligent automation to gain prominence in 2022, especially in areas such as manufacturing, quality and commercialisation.
Trend #2: Decentralised clinical trials
Decentralised or hybrid clinical trials are conducted through telemedicine and mobile and local healthcare providers. Adoption of more decentralised and patient-centric trials is increasing, as they offer a number of benefits such as significant cost reduction and generation of robust clinical data through continuous monitoring.
A number of contract research organisations (CROs) have taken the lead in advancing decentralised and virtual trials. As the pandemic continues, adoption of decentralised trials is accelerating; manufacturers disclosed that only 41% of clinical trials were conducted in the traditional, onsite method in 2021 and around 60% were either hybrid or completely virtual and decentralised. Manufacturers will continue to outsource parts of their trials to CROs in the short term, until they build internal capabilities for hybrid and decentralised trials.
Regulators and biopharma companies are working hand-in-hand with the sector to rapidly revise regulations and facilitate progress. Patients have also become more amenable to virtual/remote healthcare solutions, further driving the implementation of these platforms and solutions. This has resulted in accelerated growth of a number of digital platforms: remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions, including the use of telehealth; the internet of medical things (IOMT); automatic pill devices; wearables and sensors; and the use of electronic clinical outcome assessments (eCOAs).
Trend #3: Next-generation real-world evidence (RWE)
Evidence gathered from real-world data (RWD) gives life sciences companies insight on how their drugs are being used. Unlocking value from RWD is the only way in which the sector could accelerate clinical trials and support regulatory decisions such as approving new indications or label expansions for existing drugs. Leading life sciences and healthcare (LSHC) companies use the data to support clinical trial designs and observational studies to advance treatment approaches. Pharmaceutical companies would need to adopt a pragmatic and collaborative approach with end-to-end (E2E) evidence management strategies, by breaking down traditional evidence silos with platforms and processes to access data and knowledge assets across the organisation for supporting data-driven decision making. Creating and implementing such strategies, however, will likely require assessing and re-aligning their current infrastructure, governance, operating models, people and processes.
RWD is observational data typically gathered when an approved medical product is on the market and used by “real” patients in real life, as opposed to clinical trials. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cites several potential sources of RWD, including electronic health records (EHRs), claims, disease and product registries, patient-generated data and data gathered from additional sources that can shed light on a patient’s health status.
Trend #4: New industry partnerships
Biopharma, pharma and life sciences companies are now focusing on new types of collaboration. Partnerships around clinical studies, research, big data and more enable them to pool resources, tap into additional expertise and increase results and outcomes.
Companies are adopting various go-to-market growth strategies for innovating clinical trials to expedite product launches and new trial designs, and are deploying the latest technologies such as AI. These digital platforms would enable clinicians to use data from previous trials, including failed ones, to improve designs.
The pandemic has accelerated collaboration with academia, biotech companies and data providers within the LSHC sector. Stakeholders, including regulators, expect this to be the new normal. In addition to vaccines, oncology is expected to remain a major driver of the sector’s top-line growth. Oncology accounts for 6 of the 10 biggest new sales generators and 4 of the top 10 bestselling products. Sales of COVID-19 vaccines reached USD10–15bn in 2021, according to Evaluate statistics, with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine forecast to be the top seller. Evaluate expects Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to be the market leader by 2026.
Boehringer Ingelheim is the first pharmaceutical company in the world to collaborate with Google on quantum computing. It offers the potential to significantly accelerate and optimise the discovery of new medicines.
Trend #5: Innovation in medical supply-chain management
Life sciences companies are now focusing on the latest medical supply-chain management strategies to strengthen their systems, processes and data management. This is the first step in reinforcing the value stream’s delivery and cost performance, and includes implementation of new planning and aggregation practices, new inventory management and improved translation of demand into capacity and workload.
The second step is to look for reasonably priced manufacturing conditions and raw material suppliers in order to apply cost-efficient sourcing and procurement strategies.
The third step includes implementation of best practices that are simple, efficient and easy to execute. This would help streamline operations, increase efficiencies and reduce costs for pharma and life sciences companies.
Four recent trends in supply-chain management include predictive analytics, increased provider/supplier collaboration, e-payables and cloud computing. Increasing adoption of digitisation, AI and automation has enhanced productivity in supply-chain management, making the overall process more robust and efficient.
Trend #6: Precision medicine
There is also significant focus on supporting customer-centric engagement and creating more personalised products and service offerings. Companies in the life sciences sector want to “go beyond the pill” and be of greater importance in patients’ health and wellbeing. This entails seeking to understand engagement points throughout and even before treatment. As the sector becomes more focused on patient outcomes and experiences, new opportunities will likely arise to drive value across the product lifecycle, including physician engagement, R&D and regulatory functions.
For medical device manufacturers, personalisation is also a priority. Physicians now use surgical tools and training aids customised for patient use cases. Health monitoring and in-home diagnostic equipment, for example, feature more connected services, education and dashboards meant to improve the individual experience.
Growth of the life sciences sector is being driven by research and innovation, breakthrough drug development, significant investments to expedite drug launches, increasing government initiatives and medical advancements. In addition to increasing investments in drug discovery and research and development, life sciences companies are also transforming in areas of clinical data management, business intelligence and analytical capabilities by adopting digital transformation, AI, ML, RPA and telehealth consultation.
The key focus of life sciences companies was on digitalisation and cloud and IT infrastructure modernisation in 2021. Most large-scale biopharma, healthcare and life sciences organisations plan to move away from traditional technology-based solutions to digital/cloud-based scalable solutions. They are scaling enterprise-grade IT infrastructure and cloud applications cutting across the pharma value chain, therapeutic classes and geographies.
We believe leaders of life sciences companies should consider the following recommendations if they are to capitalise on emerging digital trends while exploring modern technologies and advanced IT/healthtech applications:
- Establish a vision for innovation and data-driven decision making
- Empower data governance approaches that would drive the adoption of changing technology trends and meet evolving business needs
- Focus on and prioritise data strategies and innovations to automate or augment manual processes
- Capitalise on emerging technology and IT use case trends such as AI, natural language processing (NLP), RPA, AR/VR and ML
How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help
We are a leading provider of high-value research, analytics and business intelligence services to life sciences, bio-pharma, medtech and healthcare consulting firms.
We provide bespoke research support on market entry and due diligence, portfolio management, licensing and acquisition, go-to-market strategy, opportunity assessment, regulatory landscaping, product launch analysis, market access and therapy area assessment, indication prioritisation, market research and forecasting, pipeline analysis and benchmarking, and competitive intelligence.
For more information on our capabilities, please visit our Life sciences solutions page.
About the Author
Shweta Gupta has over 12+ years of experience in healthcare, life science research as CI and strategy consultant for pharmaceutical companies. She currently works in the private equity and consulting practice at Acuity Knowledge Partners and supports healthcare corporate and consulting clients in providing scientific, clinical and commercial insights. She has experience in competitive intelligence, therapy area assessment, mergers and acquisition, market sizing and forecasting, clinical trial analysis and scientific conference coverage. She holds hands on experience and knowledge of proprietary databases including Evaluate Pharma, Thomson Cortellis, Adisinsight, Pharmaprojects, Datamonitor and Merger Market.
Prior to Acuity Knowledge Partners, she worked as a research manager in blue-chip pharma company. In addition to this, she has also worked with Smart Analyst and WNS Global Services, and was involved in end to end planning, execution and conclusion of client deliverables. Apart from this, her major role also included team handling and business development.