Biotech Trends 2023

What’s the next big thing in biotech?


Most trends in biotech in 2023 revolve around new drug discovery and gene editing. The biotech industry has been the cause of a lot of disruption in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. It continues to release new drugs on the market, which will help prevent, cure, and treat a lot of illnesses and diseases. 

The market size of the biotech industry was reported to be over $1 trillion in 2022. This goes on to show how significant this industry is in healthcare. 

What is Biotech? 

Biotech, or biotechnology, is a field of study where bioprocesses and living organisms are used to engineer new medicine, technology, and other healthcare products. 

The use of biology in other fields isn’t new at all. We’ve seen countless items in our daily lives that have come out of the biotechnology industry. A very common example is yogurt, which is the result of fermenting milk with living bacteria. 

The development of biotech has been rapid, especially after the pandemic. This field has shown immense potential to produce solutions for a number of health-related issues, like environmental damage and illness. 


Primary Sectors of Biotech

There are three primary sectors of biotech, all of which have played a significant role in advancing technology, healthcare, and other related fields. These are: 

Medicine

This is the most basic use of biotechnology. Here, professionals work to engineer new medicine that can be used to treat diseases and illnesses that have wreaked havoc over the years. Some examples of biotech applications in medicine are clinical research, therapies, pharmaceuticals, and genetics. 

The benefits of biotechnology in medicine are immense. Biotech products can help create personalized treatments for individual patients. It can help advance the field of medicine and develop products that will reduce the chances of people developing fatal conditions or contracting diseases. Eventually, it will cause global disease rates to decline. 

Agriculture

Biotechnology is applied in agriculture to make agricultural and horticultural processes more efficient. Biotech helps scientists design new plants. For example, there are genetically engineered crops that are more resistant to pests. This reduces the need for pesticides immensely and produces healthier food. 

These new types of plants have better nutritional value for human consumption, which is a benefit for healthcare. Biotech in agriculture can also be used to solve global issues like food shortages and world hunger. Such biotech products have helped improve annual crop yields with reduced resources. 

Industry

Biotech has long been used in non-healthcare fields and industries to create cutting-edge technology and enhance products. One of the most popular examples is biofuel. These new fuels aim to replace obsolete fuels created through geological processes. An increasing need for renewable energy that doesn’t put a strain on the planet has pushed this trend. 

The manufacturing industry also looks toward biotechnology to improve its methods using biological processes with biocatalysts like yeast and enzymes. Biotech in industries can help reduce operational costs and improve manufacturing efficiency. It also reduces manufacturing waste, such as greenhouse gases. 

Source: Mass Challenge Inc.

Here are the top trends prevailing in the biotech industry in 2023: 

Gene Editing

Gene editing is the process of adding, removing, replacing, and editing specific parts of the DNA. The goal here is to modify specific spots in a person’s DNA, correct mutations, and treat or cure diseases. 

Precision medicine is an up and coming medical practice, and gene editing has a major role to play in it. By studying and editing genes, doctors can figure out the most suited treatment for a specific patient and their condition. This way, they can personalize treatments for each patient, which improves treatment efficiency and the chances of success. Biotech in precision medicine has also improved drug delivery and discovery technologies.

CRISPR diagnostics is the most common application of gene editing. This is a diagnostic tool that reduces the time it takes to produce test results. It also decreases the test cost, which makes some expensive tests much more affordable. Biotech has greatly accelerated advancements in CRISPR diagnostics. 

Bioprinting

This is a new biotech application that works just like 3D printing. But instead of normal ink, professionals use bio-ink that is made of biomaterials. These are substrates that grow around scaffolds. This enables the body to recover from its own cells rather than those introduced from an external source. 

Bioprinting allows doctors to create skin and tissue grafts to treat burns and other conditions. This allows the body to regenerate on its own, resulting in much healthier skin and organs. Tissue engineering is becoming a widely popular treatment in a lot of medical practices. 

Artificial organs are the latest development here. Donor lists are too long, and most patients can’t hold out for long. But with bioprinting, new organs can be created that assimilate perfectly within the patient’s body. Although this application is in its early stages and needs more research and development, the impact will be immense. 

Drug Research

Traditionally, drug research is a very long process. It can take several years for a drug to be discovered, approved, and finally hit the market. The major challenges are finding thousands of participants for trials and very long production times. But biotech and machine learning work in tandem to solve both of these problems. 

A parallel can be drawn here between drug research and telehealth. With virtual communication tools, doctors don’t really need patients to be physically present to diagnose and treat them. In the same way, drugmakers don’t need participants for their clinical trials. Machine learning can be used to analyze data from past trials to produce near-accurate results. 

With rigorous and automated data analysis, deeper insights can be drawn for better diagnoses and treatments with specific medications. The time to market for many new life-saving drugs can be reduced, which will potentially save thousands of lives. 

Orphan Drugs

A biotech trend that has gained momentum in 2023 is the development of orphan drugs. These are specific drugs that are produced to treat rare conditions. Orphan conditions are diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people globally. These special drugs are expensive for patients because they are developed for a very small population and aren’t mass produced. 

Only 600 orphan drugs have been approved by the FDA, but the market is growing. Some of these are Ivacaftor, Coagulation Factor IX, and Rucaparib. The orphan drug market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12% until 2026. A report by Evaluate states that orphan drug sales will account for a third of the entire drug pipeline by 2026. 

More than half of the drugs approved by the FDA in 2022 were orphan drugs. This rapid development to treat rare diseases is only due to advancements in biotechnology. 

Alzheimer’s Drug Rollout

Research with the latest biotechnologies has accelerated the rollout of drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. Lecanemab is a promising drug that has been shown to reduce disease growth by 27% in early-stage patients. This positive result comes after a plethora of failed clinical trials and is a ray of hope. But the drug also has many side effects and is priced at a steep $26,500 per year. Further R&D is still required to make it ready for the market. 

Another example is Aducanumab, which saw a major setback in 2021 and failed to slow cognitive decline in patients. But the parent company, Biogen, announced that a new dataset in their EMERGE trial shows that the drug has started to show a major decline in the growth of the disease. 

Inflation Regulations

The post-pandemic economy saw a rapid rise in inflation that affected businesses and people alike. The US passed the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022 to curb rising inflation. The goal of the act is to decrease the federal deficit, encourage investment in domestic energy, and promote green energy sources. 

One of the drivers behind this act is to lower the prices of prescription drugs and make healthcare more affordable. This will have a widespread effect on drugmakers, who will lose millions in annual revenue. The Inflation Reduction Act will result in $200 billion of government savings by 2031. But it does come at the expense of manufacturers. 

Most drugmakers are gearing up for the impact of this act, and the likely outcome will be them deprioritizing small molecule drugs. 2023 will show us how manufacturers will react to the act. And biotech, with its potential to reduce costs, will have a huge role to play. 

Big Pharma

The better part of 2022 saw a drop in biotech stock performance. The S&P Biotech Index (XBI) fell to almost half of its peak in 2021. This was largely due to investors running out of the market, forcing a bear market. 

In such a market, mergers and acquisitions are a very common happening. Big pharma companies love to swallow small- and mid-sized businesses at cheap rates. But we didn’t see any of this last year. The trend is expected to pick up in 2023, though. 

In January 2023, a number of M&As were revealed at the JP Morgan conference. AstraZeneca has bought CinCor Pharma for almost $1.3 billion. Ipsen has taken over Albireo for just $952 million. There’s also speculation that Big Pharma would rather partner with biotech companies than gobble them up. 

Sustainable Food

Meat alternatives are expected to take center stage in 2023. The food industry has seen a number of plant-based and other food alternatives in recent years. Research in this field has made strides. 

Traditional foods and production methods are under high scrutiny by promoters of sustainability. An alternative method that looks promising is fermentation-based production. Investments in this area have almost tripled to $1.7 billion since 2020. This exponential rise can be attributed to rising concerns brought about by the pandemic. 

Another trending alternative is cultured meat. Animal muscle cells are grown in factories rather than on traditional animal farms. These genetically engineered meats prove to be much more sustainable and consume fewer resources. 

Synthetic Biology

This is an interdisciplinary field that applies engineering concepts to biology. It’s similar to gene editing but dives down to a much deeper level. Applications of this field can be found in various sectors, such as healthcare, agriculture, and electronics. Some examples of biotech products here include coronavirus testing through automation, biofabricated electronic films, and cell engineering therapy. 

Scientists in this field have produced microorganisms for bioremediation. These help clean pollutants from our environment, especially the water. They’ve created a modified rice that is rich in beta-carotene which can help with vitamin A deficiency and prevent blindness. One biotech company, Twist Bioscience, produces synthetic DNA that can be stored on silicon chips. 

Artificial Intelligence

AI has been the talk of the town in 2023, and rightfully so. The technology has found its way into every sector by automating processes, reducing costs, and improving efficiencies. And its role in biotech is just as important.

Almost every biotech company is using AI in one way or another. The most common use case here is streamlining operations by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks. An example of such a task is identifying biomarkers in genetic engineering and drug research. AI is also being used to analyze large datasets to recognize patterns that professionals might have missed. This is a critical step in discovering new drugs and improving existing treatments. 

Image classification and AI are being used together to identify diseases in patients. This has greatly reduced the time it takes to discover health dangers in unsuspected patients, such as cancer cells. 

Personalized Medicine

In this modern age, people can buy an at-home genome sequencing test for just $300. Previously, genome sequencing was only done in high-tech labs for research purposes. Today, anyone can do it, and doctors can prescribe personalized treatments meant just for them. 

Personalized medicine takes data from hundreds of successful clinical trials and draws insights from their results. This gives doctors the benefit of creating tailor-made treatments and therapies. It identifies the problem right from the source, the patient’s DNA, which is an added benefit for the general medicine department as well. 

The personalized medicine industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.6% all the way to 2030 and will be worth $5.7 trillion. 

Evolving Clinical Trials

The process of holding clinical trials has largely been transformed, and biotech has been the major driver. In the past, trials involved a lot of manual processes. Drugmakers had to recruit thousands of participants for each trial. Each participant had to be physically present for the trial to be treated, and their symptoms were monitored in-person. 

Now, digital healthcare technology has advanced so much that in-person trials are becoming obsolete. Drugmakers and biotech companies can conduct trials on a much larger population at a lower cost. Invitae, a genetics company, conducted trials to discover the genes that cause cardiovascular diseases. And they carried out the entire trial through the Apple Watch. Biometric data from the watch was used with genetic results to conduct the trial. 

Such innovative technologies make clinical trials accessible to more people and reduce the overall costs for drugmakers. As mentioned earlier, AI and machine learning are also being used to study past and current trial data to study patterns and insights that might have been overlooked. 

High Agricultural Yields

The growing global population is a big problem that is creeping up on us slowly. It is expected to grow by two billion in the next thirty years. These are two billion more people demanding food. 

The demand for food is going to exponentially increase in the coming years. This puts undue pressure on agricultural land and, inevitably, the planet and our environment. Biotechnology is the most hopeful solution to this upcoming problem. Biotech can improve agricultural yields in a number of ways. 

Gene editing can help synthesize crops that take much less space to grow or can withstand harsher climates. This will reduce the pressure on our agricultural land and open up the avenue to infertile lands. They can also create biological pesticides that protect crops without damaging their nutritional value or making them inedible. 

Vaccine Development

The COVID-19 pandemic threw the world into chaos. Medical and biotech companies were left scrambling to find a solution to this never-seen-before disease. It took them quite some time to create viable vaccines, at the expense of millions of lives. 

The pandemic has forced medical professionals and companies to reevaluate their processes and question if there is a better way to produce vaccines. Past vaccines on the market have all been created using the same concepts and technologies. But it’s time scientists figure out whether attenuated viruses are the only way to create quick and efficient vaccines. 

The lessons learned during the pandemic are forcing an era of change in the biotech industry to create better preventative measures for future diseases. 

Value-Based Pricing Models

Big Pharma in the US is able to set the price of drugs as they see fit. They are tied to the value that these drugs bring to consumers and have leveraged this point to exploit millions. In contrast, drug prices in Australia are set on a value-based model. Each drug’s price is set according to the benefit it provides patients. 

This can be in terms of quality of life or the effectiveness of the drug. This pricing model makes prescription drugs cheaper and more valuable to patients. Drug prices in the US are almost twice those of peer countries such as Australia, France, and Canada. And these prices have only been rising, the rate even exceeding that of inflation. 

These rising prices have had an adverse effect on patients. The KFF Health Tracking Poll reported that 30% of American adults don’t take the prescribed medicine due to its high cost. Value-based pricing models in biotech and pharmaceuticals have been gaining popularity in developed countries. 

Forecast Worldwide Drug Sales (Source: Evaluate Pharma Ltd, RSM US LLP)

Challenges in Biotech Industry

As is the case with any industry, biotech also has its own set of challenges that companies face on a daily basis. Some of these challenges include:

High Costs

Biotech is an industry that is largely reliant on research and development. Biotech research is very expensive and takes years to complete. A new drug can take up to a billion dollars to develop from scratch. The current economy and supply chain disruptions have only added to the costs. Getting a new drug approved is also a lengthy and complex process. And each time the regulations change, biotech companies face serious losses. 

Investor Caution

The research and approval processes are quite expensive. The time it takes to realize profits is also very long. Due to this, investors view biotech as a very risky endeavor. This is why private biotech companies find it very hard to secure funding. It takes too much time and resources to find investors, persuade them, and then actually get the investment. Without funding, companies can’t set up the required facilities and technology to continue their research. All of this adds to the delay in the research and production of necessary drugs. 

Regulatory Compliance

The biotech industry has to face immense scrutiny from regulatory institutions. After all, the products produced here impact the health and lives of people. Drugs and other products have to undergo stringent regulations before they finally hit the market. And most often, they are disapproved of. The FDA has strict requirements for how you make your products and what you use in them. This leads to very high costs and delays in production. 

Advancements in Biotech Industry

Biotechnology holds a lot of promise for the future. This combined field of biology and modern technology has already made huge advancements. Applications of biotech can be found almost everywhere. It operates in three primary sectors; medicine, agriculture, and industry. Biotech products in these sectors can help out in many other industries. 

Featured Image: Shutterstock


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