Optimising Processes, Scaling and Manufacturing for Scotland’s Biopharma Sector


Even before COVID-19, the when, where and how of healthcare was changing globally. Rising costs entailed by innovation in biopharma, coupled with changing expectations among patients receiving care, have the industry challenging itself to do the impossible: Produce and deliver more effective, affordable, personalised treatments and solutions—all while adapting to new ways of working at an accelerated pace. 

If our own life sciences sector is to meet these Grand Challenges of cost control and delivery, articulated so well by Dave Tudor and his team at the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, company leaders know they have to be proactive and bold in how they prioritise the adoption of technology. 

The disruptions and demands caused by the pandemic already set a high bar for the sector – with many meeting or exceeding expectations. Scottish companies must keep re-evaluating how to build on that good work by keeping their workforces inspired to drive forward innovation and growth across their operations. 

They aren’t alone. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021 for Life Sciences found that 96% of biopharma executives worldwide believe that capturing tomorrow’s market will require their own organisation to define it. If Scotland’s biopharma company leaders are to compete to their full potential in that market then they have to follow suit, upending convention and creating a new vision for the future.

To deliver on the promise of faster industry growth combined with better patient outcomes, success will demand more than integrated business and technology strategies. It will require sustainable operations from the top-down that account for the needs of patients at every step of their treatment journey.

At the heart of that journey is the need to realise the benefits of ‘New Science– a combination of the best in science and health technology to deliver more precise and effective treatments. New Science is projected to drive 61% of industry revenues between 2021-2026, which represents 81% of the anticipated revenue growth. Yet while New Science delivers better patient outcomes, it often carries a higher price tag.

Key to tackling those costs is the adoption of a digital-first approach. This must be nurtured by the entire C-suite and manifested across R&D, supply chain, patient services and industry support functions at a pace never seen before. To do this successfully life sciences leaders are embracing some key tech trends to forge a better future.

First, 94% of biopharma executives agree that their organisation’s business and technology strategies are becoming inseparable—even indistinguishable. 2020 revealed the opportunity to use cloud and microservices to unlock the potential of legacy technologies. However, life sciences companies now need to bank their achievements and scale them up towards an adaptive technology foundation that is not weighed down by legacy. All life sciences companies will need to build technology stacks that are fluid across the ecosystem.

A good example is digital twins, which are models of objects, systems or processes that can be used to monitor, analyse and simulate their real-world counterparts. These have been around for a while, but they came into their own for life science companies in 2020, supporting the development and roll-out of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. That trend is set to increase further, offering faster and greater R&D insight at relatively low risk – but only if organisations share data and collaborate.

And there are ways to make that happen more readily. We need a democratisation of technology that creates the space for people at a grassroots level to experience a culture change and feel the freedom to participate, experiment and become technologists themselves. Furthermore, we need to embrace new ways of working. While many aspects of lab and plant work may require a controlled environment, there’s a range of other work that can be done remotely but require new levels of professional trust.

Finally, life sciences companies can drive better outcomes for patients by enabling their ecosystems to collaborate freely using sensitive data and algorithms without compromising data security and privacy. 

During the pandemic we saw clearly the rewards that such approaches could achieve. A recent Accenture report, “From Billions to Millions: Faster innovation. Greater R&D productivity” showed how biopharma companies can reduce the average cost of discovering and developing a treatment by more than US$1 billion through methods like using more digital and data-led research.

For example, internationally, Accenture worked with vaccine developers, using AI to leverage public health and third-party data to create equitable vaccine distribution plans. These helped define and redefine high-priority populations, allocate vaccine supply, monitor population engagement and dosage regimen adherence, improve distribution and enhance safety. 

A new future is on the horizon – one that’s different from what the world expected because it enables New Science to achieve more. As this future takes shape, Scotland’s life sciences sector must stay on the front foot and invest in these trends, unlocking new possibilities for companies and better outcomes for patients. 

Julie Cetingoz, Managing Director – Technology UKi, Accenture Scotland

Accenture Scotland are sponsor at the upcoming annual Life Sciences Conference on the 2nd of December, find out more and how to book your free place here. 

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