Life science industry and the pandemic: looking at the positive impact and beyond
04 August 2021
There are countless articles out there discussing the difficulties that we’ve all encountered during the course of the pandemic and may still be facing now as we adjust to changes and look at recovery. The life science industry has of course been affected by all this, but there have been huge positives for the industry as different areas came together to fight Covid-19 and safeguard our health across the world.
Let’s take a look at some key areas where life sciences played a crucial role, the changes the industry has faced and the positives that have come from all that.
Rapid vaccine development
This is one of the biggest successes within the industry over this past year. Under normal circumstances, developing a new vaccine can take 10-15 years. Securing funding and awaiting approvals are key factors which can slow the whole process down but due to the nature of the pandemic, development of a Covid-19 vaccine was a high priority for everyone and benefited from ample government funding and fast-tracked approval.
A vaccine was going to be the crucial factor in getting out of the pandemic and allowing people to go about their daily lives without the risk of catching or spreading the virus. There are now currently four vaccines in use: BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca. With vaccinations having begun in December 2020 and being rolled out consistently, this is a huge positive for the general population and the life sciences industry.
Adoption of digital health
Digital health combines technology with healthcare to provide more personalised and patient-centric solutions. Examples range from wearable devices which allow individuals to self- manage long term conditions, to remote consultations and apps which provide advice and support.
Amid lockdowns and social distancing, digital health options were widely utilised. Towards the beginning of the pandemic, the NHS in the UK reported that 70% of routine appointments were conducted remotely and home delivery for prescriptions become much more prevalent. It’s likely that services like this will continue post-covid as they provide more convenience and autonomy for patients, especially with those with long-term health conditions.
Remote clinical trial participation
Clinical trials have been significantly impacted by the pandemic, as participant attendance and retention are crucial to their success. Enabling volunteers to take part remotely rather than having to attend in person allowed important work to continue while maintaining social distancing and not risking further spread of the virus.
Decentralised clinical trials were already in existence to some degree pre-pandemic, but they have been essential in allowing trials to continue during it. It’s expected that remote participation in clinical trials will continue to grow over the next two years, making it easier to gather crucial data and retain participants.
New scope for collaboration
Collaboration has been vital within life sciences in tackling the covid-19 crisis and has seen key players within the sector come together like never before, creating partnerships between previously siloed areas. For example, public and private sectors, government, academic research and contract research organisations. Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, highlights the positive impact this has for the future:
“I believe that the collaboration the pandemic spurred will not only open up new areas of collaboration that will live on, but that it will also be looked back on as one of the many great success stories of the Covid-19 response.”
By working together, these organisations achieved so much more in less time- the covid vaccine being the most pertinent example. Human need and prioritising public safety were put first, which resulted in delivering a much-needed vaccine for Covid-19 in record time. This speaks to the strength of collaboration within the industry and just what can be achieved in times of need.
Innovation has been central to adapting to the unique challenges of the pandemic. Embracing change, technology and remote working has enabled the industry to thrive and sets a good precedence for the future. Remote working enabled clinical trials, audits, meetings, and sales to continue to take place in a more convenient format- reducing travel time and improving accessibility. Again, this has positive implications for the future with more possibilities and scope for flexibility.
Another positive to come out of this challenging year is an improvement in public perception towards the life sciences industry as a whole. The various sectors have been instrumental in tackling the crisis, working to save and protect lives across the globe. Pharmaceutical companies are a key example of this as they worked hard to develop and produce a vaccine, coming together to make it happen.
As we gradually come through the other side of the pandemic, the industry looks set to continue to embrace innovation and utilise technology in order to support that. This is going to be key in allowing the industry to reach new potential and continue to advance the way they work and deliver health solutions.
Find out more
Our resources delve further into opportunities for innovation from the life science industry and the pandemic.View life science resources