How the Biopharma Workforce is Shaping the Future

doctor with future technology

Technological change is affecting every sector of employment, and pharma employees are no exception. 

In recent years, there have been massive technological leaps made, from AI to patient empowerment and 3D printed drugs. Recent technological advancements have pushed pharma employees to embrace new technologies and innovations in different areas. 

Trends Shaping the Future of Pharma

Let’s look at what changes and trends in the pharmaceutical sector we can expect to see during this decade, while COVID-19 is still at large. 

AI For Drug R&D

According to a recent report published by Grand View Research, the market of artificial intelligence in global healthcare is expected to reach $31.3 billion by 2025. The numerous applications that AI introduces increase efficiency in speed and savings in the sector, and pharma employees quickly recognized this potential. 

Pharma companies such as Atomwise, Turbine and Deep Genomics use artificial intelligence to identify the most suitable drugs for medical conditions, with a speed that easily cuts down on overall costs. 

An excellent example of this is how Atomwise partnered with the University of Toronto and IBM to perform drug research in developing a treatment for Ebola virus infections by providing its algorithm. 

Atomwise’s algorithm then predicted two drugs that could reduce Ebola infection rates. This research, which by traditional methods would have taken months or even years to conduct, was completed in less than a day, thanks to AI technology.

Patient Design

Patient design is centered around pharma companies and their employees’ efforts to involve patients in their decision-making processes. This is vital if the industry intends to stay ahead of the curve, as patients nowadays are more empowered than ever to make their demands heard. 

The best incident to illustrate how patients get involved in the dealings of pharma companies is by looking up the #WeAreNotWaiting movement spearheaded by diabetics around the world. 

As they grew tired of big pharma corporations ignoring their pleas to provide improved and innovative products to better attend to their needs, the diabetic community took matters into their own hands. 

They began to lead initiatives like the open-sourced DIY artificial pancreas discussion on platforms like DiabetesMine and cloud-based solutions like Tidepool. These developments allowed data on diabetes to become much more accessible and affordable as a result. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon approved the first artificial pancreas two years after the OpenAPS was made available. The FDA even created its own patient engagement advisory board to facilitate further discussion.

It isn’t a stretch to expect and even demand pharma companies follow in the FDA’s footsteps and do the same in the coming years. Since the tides are shifting, there is a positive response expected in this regard. 

In Silico Trials

In silico trials occur when experiments are conducted through a computer simulation. This is done by running drug trials and other treatments on computer simulations of organs, saving time and money.

Additionally, the need for animal testing and testing side effects on both human and animal participants can be eradicated through this method. Since there are numerous benefits to speak of, the FDA is looking toward a future where a larger amount of trial data will be generated from computer simulations. 

The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) Institute has already created digital models used to study heart diseases and osteoporosis. The VPH is an international non-profit organization based in Belgium that strives to have its project be universally adopted in research and in clinics.

Although technology has not reached the point that would allow for clinical trials to be 100% simulated, it is easy to see how pharma experts and employees are all doing a commendable job in shaping a future that benefits society’s healthcare as a whole. 

High-Tech Distribution

Drug development isn’t the only thing that has advanced; the time and costs needed for drug distribution have also been slashed from years to mere days. The integration of robotics, in particular, helps shorten the production cycle.

Denso Robotics and several other companies are dipping into pharmaceutical robots to help automate tasks in the manufacturing process. These robots come in the form of exoskeletons that can assist manual labor and the heavy loads that go with them. 

Security along the supply chain also benefits from higher-end technology, particularly blockchains. Blockchains use a barcode record system that can easily be tracked from the manufacturer to the end-user, bringing a reliable security measure to the drug distribution chain. 

This makes tracking down medicines in real-time by authorized parties and patients much more convenient and more difficult for criminal networks to operate in. Thanks to this method, sharing confidential data related to drug development and clinical trials almost becomes possible. 

Digital Health Strategies

The pharma workforce is focused on developing new approaches that rely on technology, and the “around the pill” strategy is one of them. This is the idea of creating a drug and attaching digital health technology to it. 

A better way to understand this strategy is by looking at the technology-centric approach that pharma giant Roche took. 

To find greater stability for their diabetes unit, Roche partnered with mySugr and paired the application with the company’s own Accu-Chek Guide glucose meter. This allowed people with diabetes to have an elevated experience when managing their condition.

They can now log in their blood glucose levels and complete tasks and challenges, which keeps their condition under control and improves their overall health. This way, Roche managed to sell a total experience rather than just a product.

3D-printed pills are another exciting development that have many practical applications for managing treatments. For example, the FDA-approved Spritam in 2015, making it the first 3D-printed prescription drug. Spritam treats epilepsy symptoms.

Since then, the pharma workforce and its researchers have made exciting progress and are now investigating the manufacture of multi-layered polypills via 3D printing. These contain several drugs intended to help patients manage their medications more quickly. 

The Takeaway

As the pharma industry is facing significant shifts in all sectors, new pharma employees should keep in mind the new expectations and challenges they are likely to face when opting for a career in the industry. 

Keeping employees both new and old updated with the rapid changes related to digital transformations is a challenge. As a new employee, you will be expected to go through the necessary practical training to keep you up-to-speed on handling new drugs, their development processes, and any changes in compliance guidelines. 

Certainty Based Marking (CBM) is an assessment you can take if you’re looking into pharma jobs. This assessment is an effective way employers may use to measure knowledge and an employee’s confidence in their learning. 

Of course, remote working and adapting to virtual tools is also something any new pharma employee should keep in mind. Training regarding new technology and innovations will be essential. 

There are numerous essential jobs you can look for in the industry, and doctors and nurses are only a small part of the overall field. If you’re wondering whether the pharmaceutical industry is a promising career, then one glance at the ongoing pandemic and the industry’s response to it should answer your questions.

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