We have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for ages now – at least that’s what it feels like for many people. We have all experienced a lot of fundamental changes in our lives. The impact of this pandemic on the world has been enormous, yet the life sciences market has proven to be a very strong, resilient and sustainable market. This article explains which pandemic effects on the life sciences industry and labour market are here to stay.
1. Redesigning work
Remote working exploded and in just a few months, millions of people have firmly embraced a new work-from-home lifestyle. Zoom and Teams meetings revealed real life; complete with interruptions by spouses, children and pets.
But remote working comes with a unique set of challenges, particularly in the life sciences industry. Some jobs simply couldn’t be performed from home, while some companies didn’t have the technology in place to enable their workforce to go remote overnight. Life sciences organizations reported widespread business disruption in the beginning and R&D productivity was down between 25% and 75% due to remote working.
Some lab or manufacturing-based life sciences roles have limited opportunities for remote work. But as technology rapidly changes the way we research and develop new products, this picture is changing. Research has shown that about 35% of life sciences jobs can be performed (at least partially) remotely, such as in Quality Assurance, Trial Monitoring, Regulatory, Medical Communication and Marketing.
We must develop new ways to successfully support hybrid workplaces to meet the needs and expectations of a modern workforce. This is not just a passing trend. It’s a new way of life.
2. Accelerated digitization
We saw exponential growth in connectivity since 2020, with use of several digital tools, 5G and cloud computing. These new ways of collaborating reduce time, distance and above all costs. Also, in healthcare there is a shift into digitization but with a personalized approach. More virtual meetings instead of in-person doctor’s visits, digital pharmacies, and clinical care at home.
The mega medical congresses will change from physical into virtual or hybrid events and will see growth in technologies such as AI, chatbots, virtual rooms and learning platforms. This is also the case for clinical trials. There is a trend towards more decentralized patient-centric trials. Stakeholders are likely to continue funding new digital health innovation in the next year. Health systems are expected to continue making investments and a hybrid model of virtual and in-person visits will likely be the norm post-pandemic.
3. Improved collaborations
Due to the pandemic new collaborations occurred between academia, biotech, platform companies, data providers, government, regulatory bodies etc. We noticed agile teams with aim for speed to market.
A positive effect of the crisis is the collaboration of competitors internationally in the area of discovering and developing. There is an expected growth in contract research and development and manufacturing agreements. Besides own production also manufacturing at external partners will flourish. Upscaling is the key word. So, who had the best response in this pandemic? Mostly companies with strong supply chains. Cross-border manufacturing and distribution can be a big risk, particularly from China and India. Currently 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients are produced in these regions. Therefore, companies seek to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers of medical products, and devices.
4. Shortening development
The FDA provided more than 600 EUA (emergency use authorization) requests for new products last year. Before COVID-19 this was only 65. The EMA (European Medicines Agency) used rolling reviews, a regulatory tool that speeds up the assessment of a promising medicine during a public health emergency. Before the pandemic it took approximately eight years from discovery till drug manufacturing and market access. It took only one year to get the novel COVID-19 vaccines on the market. Besides vaccines, also oncology will be a fast-growing market in life sciences. If the mRNA technique can be used for cancer cells in addition to virus cells, this has the potential to become one of the most exciting therapies.
Want to find out more about the future of life sciences in Europe? Check out our Life Sciences Spotlight: The Future of the Medical Device Industry in Europe.