Trends shaping the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry in 2020 and beyond
What are some of the key trends impacting the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry in 2020 and beyond?
Personalised medicine, collaborative innovation and advancements in research and technology have all played a part in the development of the UK Life Sciences sector which is now reported to be worth over £70 billion. The sector is growing rapidly and in recent years has welcomed over 300 innovative new businesses which have set a pace of change in the market which is having profound impact on recipients of medical diagnosis and healthcare treatments. With a continued push from the regulators to innovate in order to speed up drug development and improve patient care, a path has been paved for this thriving new industry.
Here we explore some of the main trends to look out for and how we expect these to evolve in 2020.
Developments in Personalised Medicine
Our 2019 article on Developments in Personalised Medicine discussed how the ground-breaking Human Genome Study had kick-started a new genomics industry and this year further advancements in this field are set to continue. Recent medical research has shown that many common medical conditions are inherited through patterns in genetic coding which has created the opportunity for the healthcare industry to become more customised based on DNA information and other genomic features. This year the latest disruption in personalised medical care is coming from CAR-T stem cell treatment. To date this treatment has faced challenges due production and distribution costs which have limited its scalability, but in 2020 we expect pharmaceutical manufacturers to have CAR-T development at the centre of their strategy to truly capitalise on the possibilities and benefits of scaling it globally.
According to industry leaders, genomics will soon become commonplace in healthcare and 2020 will be a pivotal year. For precision medicine to grow and be successful, it will rely heavily on the collection and processing of ‘big data’, from genetics to demographics and as such a more sophisticated approach to processing and storing this data will be needed.
Collaborative Innovation – where healthcare and science meet technology
A trend towards the convergence between science and technology has been visible for a few years now. With partnerships between global companies such GSK and Apple, Novartis and Microsoft and Sanofi and Google who have combined their technical expertise and design capability to create new products for the medical industry that better connect patient data with medical institutions and can speed up diagnosis and support personalised care. In May of 2019, another example of collaboration arose in the US with Arzeda, Twist Bioscience, Labcyte and TeselaGen forming a 4-way coalition to create a state-of-the-art assembly platform for DNA. Each of these companies bringing unique capability in medical science, design and technology and when combined have been able to create cutting edge solutions to support the analysis and use of genetic data. With an ongoing need for innovation in healthcare we can expect to see more opportunities for science to meet technology and for collaborative efforts to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible.
Ongoing Digitisation – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and wearable tech
Digital transformation will continue to be a driving force in all industries in 2020. In the healthcare industry specifically, despite a complex regulatory landscape and the significant costs associated with innovation, new high-tech digital solutions are continuing to expand across the sector and are delivering life changing benefits to their users. Technology is enabling better patient care as well as reshaping and better connecting the relationship between patients, healthcare providers and the healthcare system. Treatments are also being improved with access to constant, real-time and accurate data. Amongst these tech trends lie two of the most prominent; AI and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
Artificial intelligence refers to the capabilities of cleverly programmed machines that are designed to replace certain repetitive or manual roles that are typically carried out by humans. AI can greatly increase the speed and precision of medical processes and when leveraged effectively can truly transform a patient’s experience. Simple, but often stressful experiences such a time waiting for test results can be cut down significantly with the use of AI. Body scans and other services are being dramatically improved with AI enabling CAT to become up to 150 times faster than under human radiologists and able to detect an acute neurological event can in as little as 1.2 seconds>.
At the moment AI it is primarily being used to speed up diagnostics, advance product research and improve drug studies, but we expect this to evolve and it’s highly likely this year that within businesses; roles will change, skillsets will need to be learned or acquired and new business opportunities will present themselves as AI enables companies to take advantage of newly available data and technologies. While there is some scepticism over how much of the healthcare industry can truly be taken over by smart robots and machines this technology is only set to grow and businesses operating in this industry must be courageous in its adoption, or be left behind.
IoMT and smart technology
As with many other industries, customer experience continues to dominate. In healthcare, the focus on improving patient experience is no different and there is a continued push to allow people to truly take control of their own care. This has given rise to the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – a collection of medical tech that ranges from medical devices and wearable monitors to mobile apps and even smart pills that enable staff to see if a patient has taken their medication. Not only able to improve patient care and connect back to healthcare information systems, wearables tech such as watches, heart rate monitors and other sensors can be worn at home which is improving the quality of life of today’s consumer as well as capturing and tracking how they live with and manage their conditions.
While wearable tech is not entirely new with products like Fitbit having been on the market for years, recent improvements to accuracy and reliability as well as the tangible benefits they are bringing to health service is creating more demand for these type of personal medical products.
The next phase of wearables will see them become interoperable and integrated across a range of platforms from personal mobile and tablets to the computers systems of healthcare providers. This connectivity will enable quicker patient assessments and more accurate and tailored healthcare. With improved data quality they will be able to monitor anything from posture to brain activity. Aside from the obvious digital data collection benefits, wearable tech could also bring about considerable cost savings in paper process and records management .
Collecting data via personalised devices does come with concerns about cybersecurity and privacy however, the sector will be the need to balance the importance of collecting and using the data of its consumers with the need to protect their privacy and rights. GDPR has significantly raised the bar for processing health data and the combination of AI and ‘profiling’ of patients is an activity for which firms must conduct a risk assessment.
From what we have seen so far, the opportunities that technology advancements could bring the life science and pharmaceutical industry in 2020 and beyond will be life changing both for the industry and patients and receipts of medical care. In 12 months’, time the industry will be more personalised and the patient-centric approach will continue to infiltrate all parts of the ecosystem. There will be continued research into rare diseases, diagnosis and personalised treatment options for patients globally and this will be possible because technology and data are evolving together. Companies that work in the industry will continue to be pushed by regulators and face challenges with data security, compliance and financial constraints, but those who take risks and think strategically about the benefits that could be realised from all of the advancements we have discussed will be positioned for long term success in this multi-billion pound industry.