COVID-19 has spurred long-lasting innovation, says expert

Biopharma must learn from COVID-19 and make sure it has capacity to respond to future pandemics, according to biobanking firm GoodCell.

SARS-CoV-2 has killed more than 1.6 million people worldwide and sickened millions more in the 12 months since it was first detected. The virus has disrupted almost every industry and prompted Governments to introduce strict measures to try and slow its spread.

But the virus has also been a catalyst for innovation. From the use of internet conference technologies through to the development of online ordering systems, COVID-19 has touched every aspect of modern life.

Image: iStock/RomoloTavani

In biopharma, innovation has been split between vaccine development, the creation of therapeutics and efforts to secure supply chains.

Manufacturing capacity

And the industry will need to build on the innovation to prepare for future health emergencies according to GoodCell chief science officer, Brad Hamilton.

“If the intensity and or frequency of these types of global health crises picks up, the world will need the industry at the ready to ensure efficient and scientifically sound development of new therapies to ultimately minimize as much as possible the impact on our lives and livelihoods.”

For the biopharmaceutical and cell and gene therapy sectors preparing for future health emergencies will involve investing in manufacturing capacity and establishing supply chains that are able to withstand disruption, whatever it may be.

Hamilton said, “For industry it’s really about incorporating or expanding existing rapid response capabilities – supporting development, at scale manufacturing and distribution of developed therapies and vaccines, in response to emergent health threats/crisis.”

Cell therapy surge

The innovative technologies, manufacturing methods and distribution systems developed in response to the pandemic will have a long-term impact on the sector according to Hamilton.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we’re going to see an even greater emphasis put behind cell and gene therapies for a variety of conditions, most notably in cancer.

He added, “Advances in life science technologies – with greater sensitivity, precision and intelligence – are enabling a deeper study of disease.