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How COVID-19 is impacting life sciences

Published on September 10th, 2020

Like most industries, the life sciences field has been severely disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak – arguably more than any other. Health systems around the world face unprecedented strain while life sciences companies scramble to assist key services in health industries while also dealing with the crisis themselves.

In many regards, the industry has come together like never seen before and the results can be seen in the rapid development of potential COVID-19 vaccinations – a process that would normally take many years, not months. However, the broader impact of the outbreak will be felt for years to come and the life sciences sector has to adapt for both short and long term factors.

An attack on two fronts

One of the unique challenges life sciences brands face is being crucial to the fight against COVID-19, while also being one of the industries most affected by the outbreak. With most industries scaling back and taking a more cautious approach in uncertain times, companies within the life sciences sector have to step up and increase output despite every resource being more stretched.

As a report from McKinsey puts it:

“Pharma and medtech companies have found themselves front and centre—supplying (and rapidly scaling up) vitally important medical products to support patients in their time of need, while also attracting widespread attention as the industry sprints to develop new therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19.”

The same study also cites the “profound disruption” caused by experts having to work in isolation and the logistical and financial implications of the outbreak – particularly in the supply chain of medicines, medical products and parts.

Of course, the priority has been a twin effort of innovating solutions to the coronavirus outbreak while keeping employees and patients as safe as possible and this will continue to be the case for quite some time.

A global effort against the pandemic

One positive that can be taken from the pandemic is the way global health authorities and experts have come together in the fight against COVID-19 and broken pre-existing barriers to communication, collaboration and data sharing. While there is still so much to learn about COVID-19, medical experts have never learned so much about a new virus in such a short space of time – let alone started developing potential vaccines and treatment.

If this global collaboration is the new normal for medical innovation, there is a lot of reason for optimism about future health breakthroughs – and this may be crucial to the long-term recovery plan for the industry, too.

The coronavirus outbreak has been a crash course in collaboration, remote working and productivity for the entire medical field and none of it would be possible without the right tools. Everything from communication tools like Zoom, machine learning algorithms and rapid life sciences translation have allowed medical experts to team up across borders and language barriers.

Dangers persist for life sciences

While the global effort against COVID-19 is inspiring, the benefits of greater collaboration will be offset – at least to some extent – by the financial implications of the outbreak. For an industry that relies on constant growth to drive medical advances at the fastest rate possible, any slowdown has real effects on the lives of people around the world.

As a study from Jones Lang LaSalle highlights, life sciences will not be immune to the financial setbacks.

“Whilst businesses in the life sciences sector are in an enviable position compared to many other sectors, there is inevitably nervousness about the future, which will feed into caution about expanding and taking on additional space unless absolutely necessary. As a consequence, there may well be a short term tail off in the growth in occupancy in the sector which was running at breakneck speed until recently.”

Another issue is that the coronavirus pandemic has demanded so much attention that other health crises are not receiving the attention they deserve (e.g. cancer).

With more than 500,000 people around the world having died after contracting coronavirus, it is important to remember the human cost of this pandemic. Of course, deaths aren’t the only measure of human cost and the impact upon people who lose loved ones, jobs, homes and other life essentials is much harder to measure.

However, the impact on key industries is very real and, while the life sciences sector is strong economically, it is not so much a question of survival, but of rethinking the best approach to continue saving lives.

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Posted on: September 10th, 2020