The life sciences industry today is not how it was just five years ago. Every day, we are seeing several breakthroughs happening in the world. Irrespective of the advancements occurring in technology, sciences, culture, or arts, there are several things to look forward to beyond the spectrum.
One of the industries endlessly experiencing changes in the life sciences. The life sciences industry has always been dedicated to the improvement and safety of animal and human life. Before we dive deep into the latest discoveries and breakthroughs in the life sciences, let us first understand what it is.
The Life Sciences Industry: An Overview
The life sciences industry is a hypernym for businesses, organizations, and research institutions dedicated to protecting and improving organism life. The companies included in life sciences may include biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, biophysics, neuroscience, cell biology, biotechnology, nutraceuticals, food processing, cosmeceuticals, life systems technologies, and environmental sciences, amongst others.
Any branch of science that has something to do with the research and development (R&D) of plant, animal, and human life can be described as a subdivision of the life sciences industry. With respect to human health, this industry is fundamental to understanding the nature and severity of diseases. Environmental science is also encompassed in this industry as this subcategory helps protect our environment. Biopharmaceuticals, biomedicine, nutraceuticals, and life systems technologies deal with the research and development of disease-fighting medicines and supplements.
Life Sciences Industry Outlook amid COVID-19 Outbreak
As the coronavirus pandemic has halted the world, we see the life sciences industry stand together and competitively react to one of our era's biggest threats. Irrespective of the present uncertainties, it is evident that the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the market will be transitory, as the life sciences industry remains at the forefront of human experience and value creation. Apart from addressing the problem of the growing aging population, the breakthroughs by life sciences companies remain pivotal in driving future economic growth across the world.
In fact, when most markets fell last month when the severity of the crisis became evident in the United States, biopharma companies began to retake some of their valuation that was long lost during the initial days of the pandemic, a clear indication of the industry's power. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the U.S.-based multinational biotechnology company, saw its shares increase 10% the entire month of March, a period when the company worked relentlessly and vigorously with several other international peers to develop the world's first COVID-19 treatments.
As clinical trials — including Gilead Sciences, Inc.'s Remdesivir — quickly advance with signs of promising data, investors and shareholders are already starting to see the importance of these investments compared to the industry at-large. While a lot of uncertainty regarding the market performance stays, there will be a huge demand and appetite for investments in the life sciences industry in the months ahead, as markets become steady, and the world starts moving forward.
Innovation, discoveries, and investments in next-generation medicines and therapeutics have never been more appreciated than now, and investors are witnessing the actual value of creating life-saving therapies. The coronavirus pandemic has ignited a spark on how the life sciences industry shields the world by creating a safer and better place for all.
Competitive Landscape: Global Life Sciences Industry
Boston Scientific Corporation is a U.S.-based developer, manufacturer, and distributors of medical devices, such as the ones used in interventional radiology, neuromodulation, electrophysiology, vascular surgery, interventional cardiology, neurovascular intervention, urology, endoscopy, cardiac surgery, oncology, and gynecology. For the financial year 2019, Boston Scientific reported net sales of USD 10.73 billion and employed 36,000 people.
On June 11, 2019, the company announced its acquisition of Vertiflex, Inc. — a designer and manufacturer of medical devices — that developed and marketed the Superion® Indirect Decompression System. This minimally-invasive device is used to help patients find relief from lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). Boston Scientific's acquisition of Vertiflex strengthens its pain management portfolio and advances the pain category leadership strategy.
Johnson & Johnson is one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S. that also develops and manufactures medical devices and consumer packaged goods. In 2019, the company reported revenues of USD 82.05 billion, a 0.59% increase than the previous year. On February 13, 2019, Johnson & Johnson announced the acquisition of Auris Health, Inc. for a staggering USD 3.4 billion, marking its entry into the robotics segment, with potential for growth and expansion into other interventional applications.
In November 2017, the company celebrated the grand opening of its Center for Device Innovation at Texas Medical Center — a collaboration between Houston's Texas Medical Center, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies. The new center will be responsible for developing novel medical devices and solutions to make surgeries less invasive.
Eli Lilly and Company is a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company that operates in approximately 18 countries. In 2019, the company reported revenues of USD 22.31 billion, making an 11% increase over the previous year. The company employs more than 9,000 people in R&D, which it conducts in over 55 countries.
In January 2020, Eli Lilly announced plans for acquiring biopharmaceutical company Dermira, Inc. to expand into the biopharma segment.
Monsanto is a U.S.-based multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company that employs more than 22,000 people globally with facilities in over 69 countries.
In 2019, Monsanto generated sales of nearly USD 43.54 billion. In June 2018, German multinational chemical and biopharma company Bayer acquired Monsanto for a whopping USD 63 billion to create the world's biggest agrochemical and seed organization.
F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG — a Swiss multinational healthcare company, operates through two segments — Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. The healthcare giant has acquired the U.S.-based biotech company Genentech and Ventana, and the Japanese biotech company, Chugai Pharmaceuticals. In 2019, Roche recorded USD 61.5 billion in revenue, up from USD 56.5 billion in 2018, reporting across all groups and regions.
Roche's Pharmaceuticals unit accounted for the revenue share worth USD 48.5 billion, followed by the Diagnostics unit with USD 12.9 billion. On December 17, 2019, the company completed the acquisition of Spark Therapeutics, Inc. to bring transformational therapies and breakthrough approaches to people suffering from serious illnesses.
Proctor and Gamble, or P&G, is a U.S.-based multinational consumer goods company with 10 product categories and around 65 brands. P&G's categories include personal healthcare, family care, baby care, feminine care, fabric care, etc. Some of the company's well-known brands include Bounty, Charmin, Crest, Pampers, and Tide. In 2019, the company reported revenues of USD 67.68 billion and approximately 97,000 employees globally. In 2018, P&G completed the acquisition of Merck's Consumer Health Global Business for a staggering USD 4.2 billion.
Stryker is a U.S.-based Medtech company known for its implants used in joint replacement and equipment for surgery. The company also designs and manufactures medical devices for minimally invasive treatments for ear, nose, and throat (ENT) diseases. In 2019, the company recorded USD 14.88 billion in revenue, up from USD 13.60 billion over the previous year. Stryker employs more than 40,000 people worldwide. In 2019, the company announced plans to acquire Wright Medical for an equity value of about USD 4 billion to advance its broad platform of biologics technologies. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2020.
Top Trends in the Life Sciences Industry
With all the popularity around advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and Machine Learning (ML), it is hard to surprise anyone with this trend in the life sciences industry. However, it should be noted that AI-based companies actually start getting steady with leading life sciences and biopharma players and lots of research and development collaborative programs.
A potential of AI-driven tools is now leveraged at all phases of drug discovery and development — from extensive data research and assisting in target identification, validation, and screening, to presenting novel lead compounds and potential drug candidates and anticipating their risks. Also, AI-driven software can assist in planning possible synthesis pathways in chemicals to obtain compounds of interest. The next-gen technology can also be leveraged to plan different phases of clinical trials and examine biomedical and clinical data.
Beyond reverse pharmacology or target-based drug discovery (TDD), A.I. is leveraged in other research areas such as phenotypic drug discovery programs to analyze data through advanced screening approaches. With the majority of AI-driven players dedicating their time and efforts on small molecule drug discovery, the demand for such technologies on biologics discovery and development is very high.
Undoubtedly, the supply chain resilience in the life sciences industry will be different after the pandemic. There will be an extensive remodeling of supply chains for strategic products — including drug, medical equipment, diagnostics, food, and chemicals — led by national regulatory activities in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
There will be an upsurge in the delivery of national supply chains and the restructuring of national strategic manufacturing potentials for novel drugs for the life sciences industry. This will, in turn, lead to an increased focus within pharma on protecting supply over any cost efficiencies and slowing the externalization of big pharma manufacturing.
On the other hand, life sciences players must be able to extract huge volumes of data from different sources in real-time to leverage what leading technologies like big data and cloud computing have to offer. An integrated system would allow them to run analytics and optimize supply chains. For instance, Bayer is using predictive analytics to analyze data sets regarding weather and pollen counts to run its supply chain during the allergy season.
The majority of big pharma companies have been established due to different mergers and acquisitions and have adopted portfolios of IT applications in different phases of modernization. A huge part of the legacy portfolio is redundant or manual, which is expensive to manage while ensuring they get according to the strict and complex regulatory compliance standards. While legacy systems are fundamental to ongoing operational maintenance, they hamper the latest digital solutions' adoption.
Top-notch companies are standardizing business processes, measuring manufacturing, focusing on visibility, and leveraging the right software. They are using industrial automation to overlook processes and drive business value. Companies use automation as an alternative to manual processes, especially the ones that involve repetitive steps. Automation is one such technology that not only reduces the time taken to implement a process but also frees up time for useful assets to look after productive tasks.
Digitalization in the life sciences industry has resulted in the generation of huge volumes of data, which have to be stored and analyzed accurately to realize their full potential in different healthcare areas. A fundamental need in medical applications is to safeguard the privacy of patient data.
In R&D, data integration without the application is not possible because of the complexity of data. Hence, the data gets wasted in unused silos, and several connections in data sets are not assessed and not valid for further analysis. Many big data techniques can transform such unused data into valuable insights by integrating the data and making them accessible for further studies. Additionally, the data can be accessed by AI and ML algorithms to determine these mechanisms or precise therapy options, for instance.
Wearable technology is already altering the world and has paved the way for many people to monitor health, including sleeping patterns and overall fitness. This has usually been used for the leisure industry, but it can extend further and assist those with severe and long-term health conditions that people need to monitor daily.
Blockchain has helped wearable devices and mobile applications connect to a patient hub with all of their health records, allowing doctors to access a new level of visibility in real-time. A wearable device could update to the ledger system at regular intervals. Hence, data can be gathered to provide a better overall image of a patient's health or condition. Healthcare professionals or consultants can prescribe with more precision and be prompted to look at patient data if it's serious.
Having this data accessibility can make it easier for paramedics to get ready for treatment while approaching the patient. They can monitor the pulse rate and blood pressure and see if it's stable or the rate at which a patient's health is deteriorating.
Pharmaceutical companies are starting to outsource research programs to academic and private contract research organizations (CROs) as an approach to stay ahead of the competition in a world of rapidly growing knowledge, advanced technologies, and an unstable economic landscape.
Companies choose to outsource the research and development activities consisting of a wide range of tasks from initial studies to late-research development: lead validation, genetic engineering, hit exploration, clinical trials involving humans, target validation, safety, and efficacy tests in animal models, and assay development.
As per a report by Clearwater International, the global CRO market will stand at a whopping USD 45 billion by 2022, in comparison to a valuation of USD 30 billion by Objective Capital Partners, demonstrating the current rate of market growth at a CAGR of 10% with estimated acceleration up to 12%. This is per Vantage's alliance benchmarking study, disclosing that more than 80% of biopharma firms surveyed reported increased deals than previous years.
Getting facts and proficiency from external sources is a well-known custom in the pharmaceutical industry, with approximately one-third of all drugs and medicines in the pipelines of the top pharmaceutical firms initially produced elsewhere.
Life Sciences Industry: New Frontiers of Growth
The number of opportunities knocking the doors of pharmaceutical companies post-COVID-19 will be substantial with solid foundations. Big pharma companies with great balance sheets will need to start investing in lucrative opportunities to drive the demand for best-in-class therapies.
During a time where the number of deals is sluggish because of rock-bottom market downturns, biopharma companies generated more than USD 16 billion in public and private transactions all through the first quarter of 2020.
The ability to endure these historic market declines has only increased the industry's value, which was already signifying optimistic projections. For the past year, the number of drugs and treatments in the pipeline increased by 6%, and the overall R&D expenditure is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3% over the next five years.
During recent times, two of the most prominent venture capital firms in the industry announced plans to invest a staggering USD 2.5 billion in biotech companies. These investments will help develop initial-phase resources and advance technological breakthroughs, including ML and health security. Without proper planning and investment, it's challenging to push forward these innovations and realize the future's therapeutic benefit.
While technological advancements and breakthroughs are expected to drive more efficiency, medtech and biopharma companies should find more ways to drive value and meaning for employees, patients, and ecosystem partners. Improving human strengths — for studying data and delivering insights and asking the right questions — can allow humans to work in hand with technology and think exponentially.
Progress in telemedicine is one of the biggest sources of a substantial change in the healthcare ecosystem of the United States. In a country where access to the healthcare system is limited, telemedicine is progressively becoming transformative. In cities, unreserved communities also experience difficulties arising from waiting times that have increased from 18.5 days to 24 days since the last six years, as per a 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicare and Medicaid Acceptance Rates.
Telemedicine is improving the quality of diagnosis and treatment by allowing patients to get proper access to healthcare professionals. Electronic records have made it possible for patients to forward documents to doctors and specialists. This can mean the difference between having and not having specialist input into a case in rural communities and remote locations.
Coronavirus is causing an unprecedented crisis in healthcare systems and healthcare delivery. Hospitals and clinical services are being reconfigured to sustain patient continuity, which is where telemedicine comes as an enabling tool during COVID-19. It has limited the spread of the virus among individuals, doctors, and healthcare systems, which is critical in controlling the transmission. In short, COVID-19 has incredibly heightened the adoption of telemedicine.
The Bottom Line
The life sciences industry will remain at the forefront of research, investments, and development of the right therapies and applications not only to fight COVID-19 but also to continue building life-changing inventions every day. The pandemic further emphasized this notion, as the sector has been vigorously working at an unprecedented rate to find new therapies and accelerate the clearance rate and delivery of existing treatments.