I saw this lede for an article (Bio/Pharma, People, Perseverance, and Hope) about 2020 by Rita Peters at PharmTech and smiled. It captured the state of life sciences this past year perfectly:
It’s hard to imagine the amount of turmoil we’ve endured. From an unknown, uncharacterized disease in January, to the first vaccines entering circulation in December. In between, tests were developed & deployed, treatment modalities were implemented…and refined. A score of FDA Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) were approved for use. Technologies were adapted. Trials were recruited and run. Regulators reviewed the findings. Approval was given. Product was shipped.
Less than 12 months from initial disease discovery to a publicly available vaccine.
Just think about what that represents in terms of progress – for science generally, for healthcare, for our ability to confront health threats in real-time.
The official Word of the Year may not have been ‘unprecedented,’ (‘pandemic’ and ‘lockdown’ were apparently winners), but 2020 certainly was unprecedented. As anyone in the pharma industry will tell you, it was astounding…and the result of a great deal of dedication and hard work by teams spread around the world.
Rita Peters (rightfully) concludes the article by thanking those whose work has impacted us all. I cannot agree with her more, and wholeheartedly second her words:
“As the year closes, Pharmaceutical Technology extends its appreciation to the bio/pharma professionals and companies who worked tirelessly to drive science-based solutions to the pandemic. Your efforts—often misunderstood or criticized as being too slow by the public and policymakers—were heroic.
We also owe gratitude to the front-line healthcare workers who made personal sacrifices to care for others; and all essential workers who kept everyday life near normal for everyone else.
You are the story of 2020.”
As we turn our attention to 2021, many challenges remain.
Just as barriers to global trade appear to have risen higher than they’ve been in years, we’ve finally started creating a blueprint for global collaboration against disease. We’re standing at a crossroads.
Along one path, a global, cooperative path towards healthcare and drug supply chains.
Along the other path lies individual nations focused on supply chain self-reliance – which will likely come at the expense of collaborative innovation and speed.
Ultimately, of course, the future will likely be a combination of both.
On the one hand, our global response to COVID – while certainly not without its flaws – demonstrated the industry’s ability to work with regulators, governments, academia, non-profits and even each other to address an immediate threat to human health. That’s pretty intoxicating. It would be both reckless and difficult to step back from our ability to ‘globalize problem-solving.’
At the same time, no country – or company – is immune to the challenges posed by supply chain risk. In previous posts (e.g., here and here), we’ve discussed steps we’ve taken at Neuland to mitigate and control risks. These efforts by industry are here to stay. Companies have already started scrutinizing projects across the lifecycle for potential supply chain risks – and are taking actions to mitigate risks accordingly.
The jury is still out on supply chain reshoring. Much will depend on how unwavering political leaders will continue to be in their push to reshore an industry with such complex and far-reaching supply chains. Widely-publicized drug supply disruptions or shutdowns in recent years have brought ever-increasing attention to supply chain management. But COVID19 – and the initial threat of drug disruptions early in the pandemic – forced a major reconsideration of supply chains. The urgency to bring an entire industry onshore in many countries has already run headlong into reality, with a narrower focus emerging on medications most at risk for disruption.
So where does this leave us for the remainder of 2021?
Unfortunately, it leaves us with some global unsteadiness and uncertainty. On the bright side, while we’re still waging war against a virus, our arsenal of tests, treatments, vaccines and resources is much better equipped than it was a year ago. And for that, we owe our thanks to everyone who made that possible.
So I leave you again with Rita Peters words of gratitude, extending appreciation “to the bio/pharma professionals and companies who worked tirelessly to drive science-based solutions to the pandemic. Your efforts—often misunderstood or criticized as being too slow by the public and policymakers—were heroic. We also owe gratitude to the front-line healthcare workers who made personal sacrifices to care for others; and all essential workers who kept everyday life near normal for everyone else. You are the story of 2020.”