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Life Sciences

The biggest breakthroughs in life sciences the last 10 years

Posted by on 30 June 2020
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The last decade in life sciences and more specifically biopharmaceuticals has been one of huge innovation. New technologies and therapeutics have transformed the industry and the treatment and diagnosis of many diseases.

In April 2020, Informa Connect Life Sciences conducted a huge survey of life sciences professionals from the pharma, biotech, medical device and regulatory industries around the world looking back at the last 10 years and towards the next 10.

The question that generated one of the biggest responses, was 'In your opinion what has been the biggest breakthrough in life sciences the last 10 years?'. The 310 responses representing every area of the industry, reads like a 'who's who' of the developments in the world of life sciences over the 2010s, with many predictable answers, and some more surprising.

Cell and gene therapies and editing

Unsurprisingly, cell and gene therapies, editing  dominated many of the answers. 19% mentioned CRISPR or gene editing, though many emphasizing that the field is still "in its infancy".  Similarly, 8% mentioned gene therapies, detailing the "first approvals", "autoimmune diseases", "rare diseases", "increased safety" and "tailored treatment".

Alongside this, genome and DNA sequencing was a popular response, with many highlighting "improvements in cost, speed and accuracy" and the fact it is "roughly continuing on the Moore's Law  path". A number then tied this in with personalized medicine.

A further 9% focused on autologous and allogeneic cell therapies or specifically CAR-T. This was matched by 15% saying immunotherapy or immuno-oncology was the biggest breakthrough in the last decade, with respondents picking out "checkpoints", "discovery of anti-tumor targets", and "PD-1 and PDL1".

Other therapeutic and disease areas

More generally, biologics were referenced by a number of respondents, particularly around the "large scale manufacture" and "industrialization" of them. A few also mentioned the development of biosimilars. More speicifically, RNA, antibody and microbiome therapeutics were all common answers.

Specific treatments and scientific developments that have saved many lives were picked out, including "treatment for HIV", the "HPV vaccine", "Hepatitis C therapy". One respondent focused on the "increased understanding of inflammation mechanisms - not just a simple side kick of our healing immune system, but a driving force behind many physiological processes including chronic disease and cancers, preterm labor, obesity etc". One interesting breakthrough that also came up a few times was the three parent baby.

Technology and devices

Technology has had a massive impact on the life sciences in the last decade, forming the basis for every breakthroughs and discoveries. A number of respondents highlighted specific technologies for their impact.

Though still relatively early in its development, artificial intelligence and machine learning was the the most common technological breakthrough, with one respondent explaining it is the "combination between AI, medicine, and medical devices." Other technological developments included:

  • "Robotics"
  • "Data science"
  • "Digitalization - from submission to diagnosis"
  • "Progressive increase in sophistication of computational approaches"
  • "Implementation of apps for patients to better monitor specific health challenges and issues"
  • Within manufacturing, "single-use technologies", as well as "continuous processing"

Tied in with the technology, medical device breakthroughs were picked up on, including "Drug-Device combination products", "companion diagnostics" and "devices which allow the identification of biomarkers of disease with better accuracy".

Industry changes

Many respondents didn't focus on one particular therapeutic or technological breakthrough, instead looking at overall changes in the industry.

  • Affordability: The lower costs of treatments and diagnostics, providing "options for more available in economically suppressed markets".
  • Collaboration: Improved "communication channels" through "globalization" of the industry has led to better "real world collaboration with healthcare providers and the rest of the healthcare ecosystem". Equally, "faster and more widespread knowledge sharing through the internet has substantially increased the speed of new discoveries and their path to commercialization."
  • Patient involvement: Some felt that the role of the patient had increased - as one put it "genuine involvement; NOT repeat NOT 'patient-centricity'".

Read the full Looking to 2030 Report: The Future of the Global Life Sciences and Pharma Industry.

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