Current Market Trends in Biotechnology – The Medical Branch

Biotechnology uses biological processes to develop products, systems and tools that improve or benefit humans. It is mainly divided in 5 branches: animal, medical, industrial, environmental and plant biotechnology. The reduced cost of DNA sequencing, use of computers for drug design and the recent vaccine development for COVID-19 have pushed the medicine biotechnology branch forward. As such Biotechnology startups, pharmaceutical companies and public research agencies are working on better disease diagnostic tools and therapeutics for both complex (eg cancer, neurodegenerative diseases) and rare diseases. 

Below are some trends to look out for:

  1. Using Next-Generation Computing Technology for Drug Development: a novel drug takes 10-15 years on average to reach the market. This is because the initial drug targets, animal testing, clinical testing on humans (4 phases) and approval by regulatory bodies is a costly and time consuming process. However, by using machine learning and artificial intelligence, larger datasets can be analysed in record times allowing candidate drugs to be pushed forward or discarded. This decreases the failure rates of drugs, allows patients to hope for a faster cure and reduces the company’s expenses. According to the BCC (Business Communications Company) which publishes reliable market research reports, “the global market for drug discovery technologies should grow from $69.8 billion in 2020 to $110.4 billion by 2025 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6% for the period of 2020-2025”. 

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2. Antibodies and Personalised Medicine: The BCC predicts that the global market for “biologic therapeutic drugs should increase from $285.5 billion in 2020 to reach $421.8 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1% during the forecast period of 2020-2025”. For example, monoclonal antibodies (mABs) are synthetic antibodies, used to restore, trigger or mimic our body’s immune response. This approach is particularly used in cancers where for example, a chemical warhead (drug) will be attached to the antibody. The antibody is “trained” to recognise the cancer cell and can thus deliver the toxic specifically to the cancerous cell. This is important as every cancer has unique properties (different stages, cell types and locations in the body). 

3. Vaccine development: the urgent need to tackle COVID-19 world-wide has paved the way to rethink vaccines. For example the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccines rely on the injection of the viruses mRNA into the human cells. The viral mRNA is the necessary information to make the viral protein. This viral protein is recognized by our immune system as being foreign to the body and antibodies are made against it. Thus, our bodies now can recognize the virus if it infects our cells and can react against it swifter. This is different to the traditional vaccines where weakened or inactivated virus are introduced in our body, not information to direct viral protein synthesis.