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Future of Healthcare Q1 2022

Overcoming challenges for future biopharma growth

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Killian O’Driscoll

Director of Projects, NIBRT

Since the first biologic therapeutic was authorised by FDA in the early 1980s, the biopharma industry has experienced exponential growth and the global sales of biologics now exceed USD 300 billion in 2021.

The forecasts for the future growth of the industry remain strong, though there are considerable complexities and challenges to be navigated. 

More diverse and complex product pipelines 

Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are predicted to remain the dominant modality in biopharma by some margin. However, there is a fast emerging, unprecedented diversity in therapeutic pipelines driven by excellent fundamental science including more complex mAbs and cell and gene therapies. Future manufacturing investments for advanced therapies will increasingly be co-located with R&D operations. 

Advanced manufacturing

This pipeline diversity is driving fundamental changes in facility design, operations and supply chain with a focus on flexible and agile facilities with the ability to manufacture multiple products. Digitisation has potential to be a key enabler of a manufacturing competitive advantage, though significant barriers remain. To remain competitive there is continued demand for new efficiencies, improved quality and cost reductions in manufacturing processes.

Access to a diverse talent pool with a broad range of multi-disciplinary skills will be a key determinant of future success.

Global challenges 

As always, there are multiple external factors that will potentially impact on biopharma manufacturing including COVID-19 variants, international monetary and fiscal policies, supply chain challenges and geo-political developments. In particular, developing vaccine capacity for lower to middle income countries is a key challenge. 

The fight for talent 

Access to a diverse talent pool with a broad range of multi-disciplinary skills will be a key determinant of future success. In 2021, the Financial Times working with Cytiva published the inaugural Global Biopharma Resilience Index,1 access to talent was identified as the primary weakness in the resilience of the global biopharma industry. Indeed, the UK’s Bioindustry Association estimates the UK alone will require 133,000 skilled life scientists by 2030.2 

This is not a new problem but one that has persisted for many years. To address these challenges and to further develop the biopharma sector in Ireland, NIBRT recommends a continued focus on workforce development with a long-term strategy to develop appropriate solutions across all levels and demographics. 

[1] https://www.ft.com/partnercontent/cytiva/biopharma-reaches-for-homegrown-talent.html
[2] https://themedicinemaker.com/business-regulation/how-to-plug-the-skills-gap

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