Looking forward: Trends in

EP News Bureau, 22 DEC 2022

Looking forward: Trends in biopharmaceuticals

Gaurav Kaushik, MD and CEO, Meteoric Biopharma, explains how the biopharma
industry is going to witness a rise in the upcoming years.

Biopharma industry has been witnessing extensive transformation on the back of innovation, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This transformation is not merely limited to drug formulations, but extends right from the drug-discovery stage to development and patient outcomes. With large pharma companies making big-time investments into research and development and bioprocessing, it is likely tospur further growth in the biopharma segment.

In this backdrop, the landscape of biopharma industry continues to evolve driven by internal as well as external factors in combination with the technologicaltransformation that industries across the board are experiencing. Going forward, looking at the buoyancy in the industry, one can expect a rise in the number of biopharma products, especially biosimilars, bio generics, synthetic biology and personalised medicines in the field of bio actives and nutraceuticals. Besides, looking at the growth prospects, companies and government vie nodal agencies are also likely to pump in more funds into research and development initiatives and manufacturing.

Automated moves

Digital transformation is catching up with the pharma industry as the new imperative.
With prevalent manufacturing methods entailing excessive manual labour and human
intervention, it results into higher costs and mars efficiencies. Advanced technologies
such as robotics, data analytics, data visualisation, cognitive agents, language
processing, etc have the potential to drastically reduce human intervention, minimise
errors, inefficiencies and costs. This also frees up human intelligence and resources
for improved tasks and spur innovation. One of the key trends that the biopharma
industry is likely to see is wide-scale adoption of automated manufacturing, replacing
humans to perform high-volume, repetitive mundane tasks and business processes
with greater efficiency, accuracy and speed. In the area of research and development,
lab automation, blockchain, advanced data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and
Machine Learning (ML) can considerably reduce drug discovery timelines and also
bring down the time-to-market of drugs. With end-to-end automation, biopharma
manufacturers will be able to conduct drug discovery experiments with exceptional
accuracy and precision, data-driven decisions as well as absolute transparency and
reproducibility. In addition to AI and ML, cloud and edge computing, digital twins, etc
are also gaining popularity, albeit at an early phase of development.

Green on the anvil

The imperative to turn to sustainable practices is pushing many pharma players to
switch to greener options for manufacturing biologics. Traditionally, pharma
manufacturers use mammalian cell cultures to manufacture large complex proteins for
therapeutic drugs. However, with an exponential rise in demand for biopharmaceuticals
worldwide, there can be considerable pressure on animal-based resources, the scope
of expansion of which remains limited due to high costs and limited scalability. In this
context, plants such as tobacco, duckweed, moss and alfalfa are being widely used to
replace animal-based cell cultures to manufacture biologics. This trend is expected to
continue even as reports suggest that the global plant-based biologics market is
expected to grow rapidly on the back of technological developments at a healthy CAGR
of 6.1 per cent between 2019-2026.

Offshore manufacturing

Supply chain disruptions have been a cause of worry for many global pharma
manufacturers. Supply chains of many active pharma ingredients continue to be
fragile, unpredictable, expensive and inefficient, leading to inordinate delays in
production timelines. In order to build more resilient and reliable supply chains of key
ingredients, many pharma companies are exploring the option of outsourcing of
bioprocessing to developing countries such as China, India and Vietnam owing to their
imminent advantages – low cost of manufacturing, easy availability of inexpensive
labour and raw materials, research and development acumen, etc. Pharma
manufacturers with limited resources to build their own manufacturing facilities are
likely to explore these developing nations for offloading some of their manufacturing
activities. In fact, even large pharma companies are finding it strategically expedient to
switch to contract manufacturing at these sites across developing countries, given the
wide-scale advantages. Biopharma manufacturing being a highly complex process that
requires specialised equipment and skills, pharma players are finding it lucrative to
outsource these activities instead of building these capabilities in-house.

Cellular and gene therapy

Cell and gene therapy-related research and development is one of the most
challenging, yet, dynamic segments that is fast-gaining adoption among pharma
manufacturers. There is also considerable interest in RNA technologies on account of
their potential to considerably reduce drug development timelines as well as costs.
These therapies are likely to be at the heart of healthcare innovation in the days to
come, with the potential to cure life-threatening diseases such as cancer and genetic
disorders. The industry is still in its nascent stage, being a completely new field of
technology, however, there is immense growth potential in this upcoming segment, and
is one segment that is likely to drive much action in the days to come.

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