DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN BIOTECHNOLOGY

The last few years have seen a phenomenal expansion in the biotechnology industry. Governments and markets worldwide turned to the biotech industry for assistance with the research and production of vital vaccines and cutting-edge medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic while other industries struggled.

Historically, the adoption of digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and quantum computing has been slow in the biotech industry. However, the COVID-19 pandemic's effects have changed how biotechnology companies think about digital technology.

Due to the increased need for cutting-edge drugs and treatments as well as remote working environments, investment in digital transformation has advanced quickly. The vast majority (76 percent) of BioTech Leaders believe that digital innovation can give them an advantage over competitors. Companies must move swiftly to remain competitive with rival biotech companies. This is particularly important for small to midsize biotech companies with fewer resources.

Digital Transformation in Biotech

The integration of digital technologies throughout a biotech company's departments, aiming to improve operations and value delivery, is known as digital transformation in the industry.

A cultural shift is also necessary for a biotech digital transformation, and biotechs need to innovate and challenge the market to stand out.

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Challenges Facing the BioTech Industry

The biotech industry faces a unique set of uncommon challenges in other industries. Fortunately, properly using technology solutions can help reduce or strengthen the response to these problems.

  • Strict and Complex Regulatory Requirements: To guarantee the public's health and safety, governments worldwide have developed strict laws that biotech companies must adhere to. Additionally, numerous governments have laws and regulatory agencies that must approve brand-new medicines and other medical treatments. There are national and municipal regulatory organizations in the United States, China, Turkey, Brazil, and South Korea, among other nations.
  • High Cost of R&D: The development, testing, and approval of products and treatments are costly processes for biotechnology companies. One drug's R & D expenses may top $1 billion. In addition to being expensive, the R&D cycle generally takes 15 years from conception to commercial release. This prevents biotech companies from seeing a return on their investment for more than ten years.
  • Consumer Price Pressures: Drug pricing is a contentious topic in politics and the economy. This is particularly true in nations like the United States without universal healthcare schemes. Many countries have suggested adding more limitations to price structures for biotech companies. Profits would naturally be affected by this. Although supply and demand may impact business earnings, the life sciences industry suffered a revenue reduction of 35% to 45% after seeing robust growth from 2015 to 2018.
  • Talent Shortages: The global epidemic raised the demand for medicinal products the biotech industry offers. Global biotech companies struggled to find and retain top talent. Over half of all companies spent an average of more than nine weeks searching for applicants, according to a poll of 350 hiring managers and HR experts in the life sciences industry. More businesses are adopting cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which has forced businesses to hire thousands of data analytics experts, network specialists, engineers, and technical workers like researchers and scientists.
  • Negative Public Perceptions: While biotech companies moved fast to supply the medicines and vaccinations required during the COVID-19 epidemic, the general public has grown increasingly wary of new advances from the industry. Much of this is due to the public needing updated or false information throughout the pandemic.
  • Increased Competition: Venture capitalists have recognized the vast potential of the biotech industry. According to common opinion, the biotech industry has grown and poses fewer risks than it did in the past. Because of this, VC activity surged by 45% in 2021. Over 100 biotech IPOs took place on the US stock market alone that year. While the US continues to dominate investments in biotech, Europe and China are rapidly catching up. Recent funding for biotech companies has increased by two-fold and four-fold in Europe and China.

Technology Available to BioTech Companies

Each biotech organization will have different needs when it comes to digital transformation. Leaders need to identify available tools and understand their potential benefits and impacts. Deloitte surveyed 150 biotech leaders to determine where they would focus their technology efforts. Half of the respondents indicated that cloud computing was a priority. Other vital technologies included AI (38%), data lakes (33%), and wearable technology (33%).

  • Cloud Computing: As workforces shifted to remote work, many biotech companies rapidly transitioned their networks and data storage technologies to the cloud. In addition to helping workers access essential data and research from anywhere, cloud computing allows companies to scale effectively.
  • Artificial Intelligence: More biotech companies are starting to look to AI to help analyze massive amounts of data, run simulations, and predict outcomes in drug trials, research data, and operational efficiency. Companies like Novartis have even created guidelines for how they intend to use AI ethically.
  • Wearables: Wearable technology such as body-worn sensors and monitors are helping researchers observe patients during clinical trials remotely. This can help streamline the process and expand clinical trials beyond a geographic region where researchers are physically located.
  • Virtual or Augmented Reality: AR and VR technologies can help biotech companies remotely view and configure equipment or tour manufacturing facilities.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT solutions can help improve supply chain tracking and automatically communicate potential issues, such as temperature control malfunctions that could affect products and sensitive materials in transit.
  • Blockchain Technology: Some pharmaceutical companies are looking to leverage blockchain to improve the speed at which medication vials can be traced back to the source in case of contamination or recall. About 70% of life science leaders indicated they would add blockchain technology to their toolkits over the next decade. Some experts believe this technology could add up to the industry to $3 billion in value.

Most important biotechnology trends in 2022

The biotech industry has not only been on the upswing since the Covid19 pandemic. Artificial intelligence and digitization have been the main drivers for several years. Biotechnology continuously provides new insights. This benefits not only new treatment methods against AIDS, Alzheimer's, or cancer but also other areas such as agriculture and the food industry, and the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. Reason enough to look at the nine significant biotech trends for the coming year.

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence)
    Artificial intelligence enables biotech companies, especially start-ups, to develop new diagnostic methods and derive innovative and precise treatment methods. For example, AI is helping develop drugs tailored to the patient's genetics. In diagnostics, AI is used to analyze X-rays or blood samples, for example, automatically. The pattern recognition of artificial intelligence plays a central role here.
  • Big Data
    As in other areas, big data is essential in the biotech industry. Thanks to increasing computing power, intelligent software can develop innovative treatment options or support physicians in their work with patients. The analysis and processing of large amounts of data offer biotech companies and research even more precise insights into the progression of diseases, for example, or provide informative insights into patient groups.
  • Gene Editing
    At the latest, with the development of CRISPR technology, it is possible in biotechnology to adapt gene sequences to specific requirements. Gene scissors have multiplied the possibilities for companies, physicians, and researchers. Essential goals include treating inherited diseases or adapting plants and animals to unique weather conditions. Among other things, CRISPR technology should be used to adapt crops to the changing climatic conditions during climate change.
  • Gene Sequencing
    A few years ago, sequencing the human genome or genomes was costly. With the help of modern technology and ever more powerful computers, biotech companies can now use gene sequencing as a basis for further research, such as developing medicines individually tailored to patients. Even if the methods have been used long, genetic research keeps coming up with new findings.
    Numerous start-ups worldwide have specialized in gene sequencing and are offering it for various purposes at ever-lower prices.
  • Personalized medicine ("precision medicine") or synthetic biology
    While drug development is constantly evolving, each drug is just a product designed for a whole group. Personalized medicine takes a different approach. Based on gene sequencing and analysis with AI and other methods, modern biotech companies are developing medicines for the specific needs of a particular person. In this way, among other things, the metabolism can be precisely considered, i.e., how people process a particular active ingredient. The individualization of drugs not only makes them more effective but there should also be fewer side effects.
  • Biomanufacturing
    Biotech companies can now produce tissue, organs, or other biomass in the laboratory. Biomanufacturing should one day provide the solution for organ transplants. In the food industry, the technology is used, among other things, to breed meat in test tubes to reduce animal husbandry and the associated CO2 emissions.
  • Bioprinting
    Based on biomanufacturing, bioprinting was another significant biotech trend in 2021. With the help of special 3D printers, organs or other biomaterials are to be created from cells and tissue, for example. The artificially generated cell products can later be used in medicine and the food industry.
  • Microfluidics
    Microfluidics deals with the behavior of liquids in the smallest of spaces. The areas of application are diverse. For example, research can be used for the further development of printers as well as for the development of new infection tests.
  • Tissue Engineering
    The development of organic material in the laboratory can be realized with the help of bioprinting and micro fluids. As a discipline of biotechnology, tissue engineering provides great hope for people hoping for donor organs. In the future, organs or skin used for transplants should be able to be cultivated cheaply and quickly in the laboratory. In the food industry, tissue engineering solves future food shortages.

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Conclusion

The biotech industry relies on modern software and hardware. The latest developments in the field of AI and digitization thus also directly influence biotechnology's innovative power. With the constant further development in the IT sector, new biotech trends are to be expected soon, which, among other things, will bring solutions for nothing less than the continued existence of humanity.

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