Biotech is in for a rollercoaster 2021


First published in our Biotech Review of the year – issue 8.

It’s impossible to disagree that be it investment patterns or research activity, the pandemic has touched every element of the global biotech market and will continue to do so in the months ahead. In truth, however, the pandemic is not the only notable trend of 2020 that could leave a lasting mark on the sector. Rather, from COVID-19 to heightened consciousness, collaboration and customisability, the biotech sector is set for a rollercoaster 2021.

Alongside COVID-19, a hallmark of 2020 has been heightened public ‘consciousness’. True, healthcare services are often popular media fodder, but the pandemic has shone a light onto some of the more overlooked aspects of the sector. Never has there been such intense public interest in how vaccines are produced, for example. Nor has the approval process for medicines been so widely discussed. What’s more, according to Google’s analytics, searches for ‘Biotech’ more than doubled between June and July alone. In short, biotech is now firmly front of mind for many, but, as we discuss in this year’s Biotech Review, whether this will affect investment activity in the years to come remains the million-dollar question.

From consciousness we move to collaboration, a keynote of last year and likely a defining feature for 2021. Though collaboration has always been the lifeblood of the sector, the race to develop a vaccine has seen a notable intensification in cooperation between biotech companies, research institutions and governments. The recently-launched OxfordAstraZeneca vaccine – which was rolled out after swift multi-country trials and after the commendable efforts of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, Italy’s Advent Srl, the US’ IQVIA, and the British-Swedish AstraZeneca – is emblematic in this regard. And, just as with heightened public consciousness, it remains to be seen whether the increased collaboration of the last few months will leave an indelible mark on the sector – a central question for a number of our articles this year.

Looking ahead, one thing we can predict with confidence is a significant growth in customisable, personalised medicine. Gene and cell therapies are already moving from theory to reality, with the FDA publicly declaring it expects to be approving ten to twenty cell or gene therapy products a year by 2025. In the months ahead, we will likely see not only further development of such technologies, but significant investment activity also.

In short, 2021 is an exciting time to be working in the biotech sector. As a firm, we have seen our clients, who occupy every corner of the market, not just grow, but complete vital work at an incredibly difficult time. It is these observations that have shaped the pages of the Biotech Review – covering everything from the rise of AI through to transgenic mice and the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill – which we are delighted to share with you.