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Perspectives on COVID-19 and What It Means for the Biopharmaceutical Industry

Perspectives on COVID-19 and what it means to clinical trials, investments in drug development & research and what a return to work could look like for much of the biopharmaceutical industry.

Langham Life Sciences Services had the opportunity to talk with a few professionals from the Midwest with leadership roles in health solutioning, supply chain logistics and investment strategies for the pharmaceutical development and research industry about the paradigm shifts COVID-19 is fueling in leaders tasked with navigating an evolving landscape for bringing therapies to market after a pandemic crisis.

In an April 2019 article published by Pharmacy Times, Acentrus Specialty reported specialty drug spend has increased 73% since 2011, with total volume on track to exceed US $500 Billion in 20201. With little reason to believe drug manufacturers will abandon their pipelines, even with most resources being directed to combating coronavirus; one thing has become clear in the wake of “stay-at-home” and states of “self-quarantine”, and that is more emphasis will be put on improving the supply chains of life-saving therapies and medical supplies. From the complexities inherent to delivering orphan drugs, CAR-T therapies and personalized medicines to patients in hospital settings to the perceived simplicity of ensuring medical supplies such as gowns, masks and gloves are in the right place, at the right time, a re-evaluation of what were considered reliable networks is imminent with a return to the “new norm”.

Our team of experts feel refocusing on the reliability of their respective supply chain networks will be evident in a few ways, including:

  • Evaluation of expanded global networks that distribute the risk of supply interruption across a broader, global footprint. The outcome of these efforts could be a migration to “reshoring” of API and raw material production and the consideration for establishing reliable CMO and CRO partnerships in the likes of Africa and South America.
  • Revisiting decision-making criteria that supports the parts of the supply chain infrastructure that are insourced vs. those that are outsourced. With a strong likelihood that manufacturers will respond to the effects of the pandemic on their inventories by establishing greater capacity for work-in-process, the development of additional in-house and contracted storage space will be ruminated.
  • Emphasis on establishing definitive redundancies within the workplace with dedicated teams assigned to shifts and functions that create duality of skills and production efforts across a broader part of the workforce. The result is a physical separation of teams from one another to minimize the risk of labor shortages during what many feel is the potential for a “repeat” pandemic of some size and shape, in the future.

While a “return to work” goal is being upheld by pharma leaders almost universally, planning for how that will roll out for drug development and research, manufacturing and capital investing across the life sciences sector remains to be socialized, as we manage through what is still very much a day-to-day battle for those engaged on the frontlines of COVID-19. But the evidence is mounting in support of near-term focus on creating improved infrastructure that can support biologics research, therapeutic advances and, diagnostic capabilities aimed at the prevention of pandemic crisis.

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