How Biotechnology Advancements Are Shaping the Pharma Industry

6 min Minutes

Though the Covid-19 pandemic had a profoundly damaging impact to healthcare systems and econ...

By Guest Author

sharing industry expertise

Though the Covid-19 pandemic had a profoundly damaging impact to healthcare systems and economies, it also demonstrated the vital role that the pharmaceutical industry plays in combating destructive health crises. Governments were repeatedly forced to impose strict public health restrictions to stem the flow of the disease, a disruptive cycle that was brought to an end largely because of the effective vaccines that the pharma industry produced.

This unprecedented scientific triumph would not have been possible if not for the technological advancements in biotechnology over the last few decades. Pioneers in the field of biotechnology have been working tirelessly to reduce the rates of infection, and the pandemic was their time to step into the limelight to provide the pharmaceutical solutions we so desperately needed.

Many experts warn that factors such as increased global connectivity, climate change, and urbanisation will inevitably make future pandemics more likely. These grim predictions highlight the fundamental role that the pharmaceutical industry must play to prevent the sort of upheaval that we experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Advancements in biotechnology gave us the tools to produce vaccines on a grand scale, a feat that may have to be replicated in the future.

In this guide, we will explore the ins and outs of biotechnology and the ways in which it is revolutionising the pharmaceutical industry.

Why Is Biotechnology Important?

Many associate biotechnology with the mass manufacture of life-saving drugs and medicines, but in actual fact, biotech is part and parcel of our everyday lives. From antibiotics to yeasted bread, beer to cheese, all manner of luxuries we have become accustomed to are available to us thanks to biotechnology. Indeed, this highlights just how vital biotech is on a micro level, but its true importance can only really be measured on a macro scale.

Scientists and engineers the world over are coming up with biotech solutions to tackle the planet’s biggest concerns. Whether it be studying viruses at the cellular level to come up with effective treatments or creating bio-based fuels to help achieve a zero-waste future, biotech is fast becoming one of the most precious tools in humanity’s arsenal.

Since the turn of the 20th century, there have been so many scientific innovations that can be credited to biotechnology. These include the discovery of the structure of DNA, the creation of genetically engineered medicines like insulin, and stem cell applications. Understanding biotech’s past and present achievements give us a greater idea of what its future will look like, and while there has been undoubted progress, there are various challenges that stand to unravel these technological advancements.

What Challenges Does the Pharmaceutical Industry Face?

Biotechnology advancements have helped the pharmaceutical industry to go from strength to strength. These innovations have led to new and improved medicines, better methods, and more pharma industry jobs. However, there are a number of difficult challenges that threaten the development of biotech and the pharmaceutical industry in general.

Economic Volatility

Almost every industry has experienced financial instability due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. This in turn has had a detrimental impact on pharmaceutical companies’ budgets, as economic uncertainty leads investors to be hesitant about funding research and development. This lack of investment hinders innovation and progress, meaning all-important treatments cannot be produced at a consistent scale.

Supply Chain Disruption

Many industries have been hit by post-pandemic supply chain disruption, and the pharma industry has by no means been immune. During the pandemic, lockdowns and travel restrictions prevented supply chains from running as normal, and this problem has continued due to the rising cost of raw materials.

Vaccine Hesitancy

While scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines, there remains a significant section of the population who are hesitant about taking the jab. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to this reluctance, but whatever the exact reasons are, it significantly impacts both public health recovery and the financial stability of pharmaceutical firms.

Clinical Trial Disruption

Clinical trials are the bedrock of pharmaceutical safety. They are a key part of the drug development process, and without them, the medicines we rely on would not receive the green light. Social distancing measures during the pandemic halted many areas of normal life, one of which was clinical trials. These disruptions have caused delays in drug production, causing harm to public health and the pharma industry’s bottom line.

Demand for Certain Drugs

Medications such as antivirals, vaccines, and antibiotics are so important to public health, and they are essential in treating the symptoms of a wide range of diseases. They were particularly vital during the Covid-19 pandemic, and given the scale of the public health emergency, pharmaceutical companies had to step up to increase supply. These efforts have led to chronic shortages and supply chain instability, problems that will be plaguing the pharmaceutical industry for a long time to come.

How Is Biotechnology Helping to Tackle These Challenges ?

As we have explored, there are undoubtedly many problems facing the pharma industry, but thanks to the wonders of biotechnology, the sector still manages to navigate through difficult times. Here are just some of the ways in which biotech is helping the pharmaceutical industry.

Cutting Costs

Biotech helps the industry to save costs in many ways, and a key example is the introduction of biosimilars. These useful drugs are similar to biologics, only much less expensive and therefore available to more people. The development of biosimilars highlights how biotech can cut costs while improving public health.

Developing Drugs

Many medicines that we rely on have been developed using biotechnology, not least the monoclonal antibody therapy that proved to be so crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic. This handy treatment was effective in managing mild to moderate symptoms and helped many people to recover from the disease.

Producing Vaccines

The development of mRNA technology, a biotech product, allowed us to produce the Covid-19 vaccines on a relatively swift schedule. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were at the forefront of pioneering this technology, and as a result, scores of vaccinated people were spared from severe illness and hospitalisation. This unprecedented feat demonstrates how biotech is capable of steering us out of public health emergencies, and also underlines the benefits it brings to the pharmaceutical sector as a whole.

Rapid Diagnostic Tests

Testing became a key component in our fight against Covid-19, and our ability to rapidly test for suspected cases is a testament to the effectiveness of biotechnology.

PCR and antigen tests became bywords during the pandemic era, the speed and reliability of which have been greatly enhanced by biotech advancements.

How Does Biotech Streamline Drug Development and Manufacturing?

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of biotechnology’s impact on the pharmaceutical industry is the way in which it expedites drug development and manufacturing lead times. The world has a growing and aging population, so it is paramount for the sector to come up with quicker and more efficient methods of drug production. Here are just a few examples of how biotech is helping to speed up manufacturing times:

  • Single-Use Technology - Cleaning and sterilisation are essential aspects of the drug production progress, but they can also take up a lot of time. Single-use technology, a biotech innovation, has been successful in removing the need for cleaning between batches, making the process all the more efficient as a result.
  • Continuous Drug Production - Batch manufacturing can be a costly and time-consuming way to produce medications, but thanks to biotech development, many pharma firms now opt for an alternative method; continuous drug production. This form of manufacturing removes the necessity for batch processing, thereby lowering expense, speeding up manufacture times, and creating better quality products.
  • Cell Culture Technology - Biologic drugs have revolutionised the world of medicine, helping to treat an array of immunological conditions. Biotechnology has allowed cell culture to develop, a technique that enables biologics to be produced on a large scale. Cell culture technology underlines just how important biotech is to the pharma industry’s ambition for quicker manufacturing times.
  • High-Throughput Screening - Pharma companies are constantly looking for efficient ways to identify promising new drugs, and high-throughput screening is certainly one of the most valuable. A product of biotech innovation, high-throughput screening utilises robotics to rapidly tests large volumes of compounds for their potential viability. Not only is it highly effective, this method also cuts down on time and cost.

The Future of Biotechnology

Biotechnology has already gone a long way in shaping our society. From the medicines we treat ourselves with to the food we eat, its applications can be seen in almost all aspects of daily life. The future of biotech is a very promising one, and it’s exciting to predict what its upcoming innovations will look like. Based on the current trends, here are a few of the ways in which biotech will change the world in the not-so-distant future.

Personalised Medicine

The field of personalised medicine is certainly on-trend right now, and biotechnology is helping to develop it. Personalised medicine involves issuing treatments that are tailored to the patient’s genetic makeup. Many experts believe that custom, targeted therapies that are more effective and have fewer unwanted side effects will be possible in the near future, largely thanks to advances in genomics and gene editing.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is on everyone’s lips right now, not least because of the profound impact it is having on biotechnology. Various biotech firms have used AI algorithms to perform an array of important functions, from identifying core biomarkers in the development of drugs to using image classification to detect cancer cells. Considering all of the impressive feats AI has already achieved, it is intriguing to think about what it has in store for us in the future.

Environmental Remediation

Environmental welfare has become a hot topic in recent years, an unsurprising trend given the alarm that climate scientists have sounded. Experts around the world constantly try to come up with innovative methods of environmental remediation, and biotech is providing the answers. Pollutants like oil and plastic are very difficult to get rid of, but owing to technological advancements, solutions are in development. These include engineering plants to absorb heavy metals and engineering microbes to break down pollutants.

Agriculture and Food Production

Sustainability has become a primary concern for many industries, particularly in the agriculture and food production sectors. Biotech is making waves in the development of sustainable farming by coming up with alternative protein sources to limit the environmental damage caused by traditional meat production. In the future, plant-based and cell-based meat could revolutionise what we put on our plates, and possibly save the planet in the process.

Want To Learn More About Pharma Industry Jobs?

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