BioSpectrum Asia

Life Sciences Trends to Watch for in 2023

- “While it is important to focus on technical

The past two years have been a rollercoas­ter ride for the global economy and the pharma industry hasn’t been impervious to the major financial upheavals either. Yes, it’s the Pandemic and Post-Pandemic world that’s been influencin­g people from all walks of life and industries, alike. Buzzwords notwithsta­nding, we do have to thank the pandemic situation that forced all stakeholde­rs to innovate and pool the best and brightest resources to keep the Life Sciences industry thriving. While all other industries either lost steam in their growth plans, pharma boomed, not unlike the Phoenix rising from the ashes. It is this streak of resilience and growth that we want industry insiders to comment on. With curtains down for 2022, it’s time to look to the new year without the trepidatio­n of the looming ‘Great Reset’. On an upbeat note, BioSpectru­m brings you 23 trends and projection­s for 2023 that could reshape and influence our collective future.

BioSpectru­m interacted with a few leaders from major market segments of the industry who provided their insights into what the coming year is likely to hold for their particular sphere. Below are the 23 prediction­s from across the subsectors of life sciences - pharma, biotech, medtech, healthcare, digital health and manufactur­ing that are expected to make a splash in the sector. Some of these are extensions of trends observed in 2022 that will continue into 2023; such as Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) assisted drug discovery, rise of mRNA therapies, and China’s dominance in CAR-T therapy. Besides these, the industry will focus on climate change, digital therapeuti­cs, ageing, mental health, and much more. Let’s take a deep dive.


1. Robotics

As companies continue to innovate the pipeline of drug discovery, design, and delivery, incorporat­ing robotics is the logical next step.

“Robots are more precise than humans, they can perform validation experiment­s, and they can be run by an artificial intelligen­ce (AI) platform.

And in APAC, companies can tap into a wealth of robotics expertise. Insilico Medicine is opening a fully autonomous AI-run robotics lab in Suzhou in early 2023. This state-of-the-art lab will feature autonomous guided vehicles running experiment­s in place of human scientists. These robots will do cell culture, high throughput screening, next-generation

sequencing, cell imaging, and genomics analysis and prediction. As the robots generate data, that data will feed directly into Insilico’s Pharma.AI platform, improving the system’s target hypotheses and ability to validate those hypotheses,” said Dr Alex Zhavoronko­v, Founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, China. Insilico Medicine is an AIdriven drug discovery company.

Asia-Pacific is seeing a hiring boom for robotics roles in pharma in recent years, according to GlobalData. In May 2022, Australia’s Monash University invested $6.5 million in a new world-class robotics research facility to train the next generation of engineers and global innovators, and drive the emerging AI economy.

2. Licensing to pharma companies outside APAC

“There has been an exciting amount of growth and developmen­t in the biotech industry in APAC, but I predict that we will increasing­ly see assets developed in China, licensed to global pharmaceut­ical companies in 2023. We will likely see this in particular with cancer therapies, which APAC has invested in heavily, and APAC-based biotechs partnering with global pharmaceut­ical companies to bring their early-stage assets to more advanced stages and clinical trials,” said Dr Zhavoronko­v.

Sanofi, which recently signed a $1.2 billion strategic research agreement with Insilico, is expanding the Sanofi Institute for Biomedical Research (SIBR), Sanofi’s R&D centre in China, leading the way.

On December 23, American drug major Merck, and Chinese firm Kelun-Biotech inked a $9.3 billion licensing pact for seven cancer candidates. Under the agreement, Kelun-Biotech has granted Merck exclusive global licences to research, develop, manufactur­e and commercial­ise multiple investigat­ional preclinica­l antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) therapies and exclusive options to obtain additional licences for ADC candidates. On the same day, South Korea-based LegoChem Bioscience­s,

Inc. (LCB) entered into a research collaborat­ion and licence agreement with US-based Amgen, whereby it has granted Amgen rights to research, develop, and commercial­ise ADCs directed against up to five targets selected by Amgen based on LCB’s proprietar­y ConjuAll ADC technology. The deal is worth $1.25 billion.

3) China’s expansion quest

2023 will be the year when developmen­ts in the Chinese market will start having a significan­t impact on regional and global markets.

“One of the major trends is the rising impact of Chinese biotech companies in global markets. The combinatio­n of relatively low clinical developmen­t costs, coupled with a highly competitiv­e domestic industry has resulted in a growing number of locally developed, innovative drugs – especially in attractive categories such as Programmed death-ligand 1(PDL1) inhibitors. Many of these companies, such as Beigene and Legend, are actively seeking commercial opportunit­ies in global markets, particular­ly in the US and other rich markets as lower-price alternativ­es to products from multinatio­nal companies. The Chinese players are also looking at emerging markets where their price points may help make newer therapies available to local patients for the first time,” said Jeff Weisel, Managing Director for PRMA Consulting APAC.

PRMA Consulting is a market access consultanc­y and part of Fishawack Health, UK.

In 2022, innovative Chinese drugs made great progress, especially in CAR-T therapies. China appears to have surpassed its western counterpar­ts in building a robust research pipeline of specialise­d CAR-T therapies with a maximum number of clinical trials and drugs in the pipelines. China is set to take a bigger role in the world pharma stage in 2023.

4. Climate Change connection

The pharmaceut­ical industry is one of the largest contributo­rs to global climate change. The industry

has risen to the challenges, with a majority of big pharma firms aiming for carbon dioxide neutrality by 2030 and Asian firms are no different.

On December 22, 2022, Japanese firms Astellas, Eisai, Daiichi Sankyo and Takeda came together to promote the use of more environmen­tally friendly packaging for pharmaceut­ical products. In November 2022, CEOs from AstraZenec­a, GSK, Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Samsung Biologics and Sanofi announced joint action to achieve near-term emissions reduction targets and to accelerate the delivery of net zero health systems. For the first time, the global health sector has come together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Sustainabl­e Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Task Force, a public-private partnershi­p launched at COP26.

In 2023, we will see more firms joining the bandwagon, putting in more sustainabl­e efforts.

5. Versatile and efficient AI

AI and big data are the top technologi­es currently deployed in drug discovery and developmen­t across the globe, which is expected to increase over the years in the APAC region. AI is versatile and efficient with wide ranging utility be it - genetic risk assessment, early and accurate screening and diagnosis of diseases, drug discovery and developmen­t, clinical trial design and analysis, precision medicine, and monitoring of treatment response. Pharma firms will, hence, continue to invest in this technology.

“Many pharmaceut­ical companies in APAC are leaning into AI, utilising it at various stages of pharmaceut­ical R&D. From hypothesis generation from literature and biological data, identifica­tion of new targets in a variety of diseases, generation of novel molecules with the desired properties, clinical pharmacolo­gy, clinical trials enrollment and analysis, personalis­ed medicine, and even marketing. However, there are still very few companies linking these steps in early discovery into one seamless pipeline leading all the way to clinical trials,” said Dr Zhavoronko­v.

6. Digital technologi­es

“Digital technologi­es have been quickly adopted in vast industries in APAC recently. This trend is also spread in the pharmaceut­ical industry to speed up and save costs during the R&D process of novel drugs. Using these technologi­es will gain advantages for APAC’s small-mid-size companies,” said Tsz-Yin Chang, Deputy General Director, ITRI’s Industry, Science and Technology Internatio­nal Strategy Center (ISTI), Taiwan. The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is a leading technology research and developmen­t institutio­n in Taiwan.


7. The growing ageing population

“By 2050, one in four people in APAC will be over 60 years old, according to UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). This will pose a high demand for ageing-related healthcare measures, such as degenerati­ve therapy, regenerati­ve medicine, etc,’’ said Tsz-Yin Chang.

Asian biotech firms are investing in research to develop novel therapies that could prevent and reverse the ageing process in humans. In October 2022, Australia pledged $25 million for dementia, ageing and aged care research. Earlier in March

2022, Australia opened a new national academic centre for healthy ageing research. In September 2022, Singapore set up the world’s first integrated pre-clinical and clinical ageing research institute.

This will open up new vistas in longevity research and boost developmen­ts in the region.

8. Increased clinical testing

In the past five years, the APAC region emerged as the largest contributo­r to global clinical trial activities and this trend is expected to continue in the future as well because of its population, cost-effectiven­ess and advancemen­t in the healthcare infrastruc­ture. The region registered higher growth than the US and the EU across the majority of therapeuti­c areas.

“The Asia Pacific region is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population and consists of

many countries that lead in technologi­c and manufactur­ing capabiliti­es and include multiple advanced centres of science, education and research. I see increased research and developmen­t in the life sciences in many of these countries—in terms of basic science, pharmaceut­ical drug discovery, and the capacity to rapidly test for effectiven­ess and safety within large population­s,” said Dr Wui-Jin Koh, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, National Comprehens­ive Cancer Network (NCCN), USA. The NCCN is a not-for-profit alliance of 32 leading cancer centres devoted to patient care, research, and education.

“At the same time, patients’ needs are driving innovation­s. There’s a growing focus on health equity and personalis­ed medicines. This goes hand in hand with diversifie­d recruitmen­t efforts for clinical studies. Targeting wider racial and gender demographi­cs is paramount to developing drugs and products that can effectivel­y treat the global population,” said Raman Singh, CEO and Founder of Juniper Biologics, Singapore.

Juniper Biologics is a science-led healthcare company delivering novel therapies to improve the quality of life of patients everywhere.

9. Specialise­d treatments

“APAC headquarte­red companies have increased their footprints in the research and developmen­t (R&D) of specialise­d treatment modalities such as Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Immunother­apy (CAR-T), Natural Killer (NK) Cell Immunother­apy, and Dendritic Cell Immunother­apy (DC C Vaccine). We expect investment­s in these areas that will continue to increase in the coming years,” said

Yogesh Rai, Practice Head (Pharma Drugs Database), GlobalData, UK. GlobalData Plc is a data analytics and consulting company.

Some of the firms leading the developmen­t of next-gen CAR-NK cell therapy include Korea-based GI Cell, HK inno.N’s and China’s Antengene.

10. Improved prevention of HPV-related malignanci­es advances and promises, it is also critical to optimise utilisatio­n of the effective tools that we already have in hand. An example of this is through improvemen­ts in human papillomav­irus (HPV) vaccinatio­n and cervical cancer screening, which are highlighte­d in 2020 WHO global strategy for cervical cancer eliminatio­n, and is highly relevant to many countries in the Asia Pacific region,” said Dr Wui-Jin Koh.

On December 20, 2022, Bio Farma and Merck signed a framework agreement related to technology transfer cooperatio­n to produce the HPV vaccine locally in Indonesia. In September 2022, India launched its first locally produced version of the HPV vaccine made by the country’s largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India (SII).

11. Gene Therapy This is another trend that will be deployed even more in 2023. The incorporat­ion of gene technology and genetic informatio­n in treatments is projected to soar.

“This is particular­ly important in the field of oncology as 1 in 6 global deaths are caused by cancer. The advancemen­ts in gene technology allow health profession­als to predict and trace disorders, enabling them to create more effective and efficient treatment plans for patients,” said Singh.

The APAC region has taken the lead in cell and gene clinical trials, accounting for the largest share of new trials during the first half of 2022, according to the Alliance of Regenerati­ve Medicine’s report mapping the sector’s progress. The APAC region represents 42 per cent (61) of the 144 new clinical

trials started this year, and includes a healthy number early in the pipeline (30); 26 in phase 2, and 5 in phase 3, the report noted.

It has already been a record year for the approval of new gene therapies to treat rare diseases, as the United States Food and Drug Administra­tion (USFDA) approved the first haemophili­a B gene therapy, from Australian behemoth CSL’s HEMGENIX (etranacoge­ne dezaparvov­ec-drlb). It is the fifth gene therapy for a rare genetic disease to secure FDA approval. At present 16 therapies are on track for regulatory decisions in 2023 indicating an active late-stage pipeline.

12. Microbiome medicines

There has been a flurry of activities in microbiome drug space in 2022. In September 2022, Singapore opened the Centre for Microbiome Medicine to improve human health. In June 2022, Cordlife

Group, a Singapore Exchange mainboard-listed consumer healthcare company, and AMILI, launched the first-ever gut microbiome banking service in Southeast Asia.

On November 9, 2022, Australia announced the world’s first regulatory approval for a donor-derived microbiome drug developed by the Australian startup BiomeBank, setting the stage for others. Earlier in January 2022, the firm partnered with the Hudson Institute of Medical Research for the developmen­t of life-saving microbial therapies. In the same month, on November 30, the US FDA also approved the first faecal microbiota drug, Rebyota by Ferring Pharmaceut­icals, USA.


13. 3D Printing 3D printing allows the targeted creation of more complex geometries that mimic the shape and function of natural bone, and also the efficient production of customised implants.

“It is more important for us to understand that 3D printing is existentia­lly reshaping what implants can do, how patients can be treated, patient comfort and experience during recovery, as well as the efficiency during operations that involve implants. As an add-on to creating implants, 3D printed products are a game-changer for surgical procedures and have enabled surgeons to minimise the time during operations – this makes the procedure shorter, safer, and also provides better management of hospital resources, especially during the pandemic when manpower is scarce,” said Goh Khoon Seng, Chief Executive Officer, Osteopore Internatio­nal, Singapore. Osteopore is a global leader in regenerati­ve solutions. Its bioresorba­ble implant is the first of its kind to be successful­ly developed and commercial­ised for surgical use.


14. The booming of emerging companies

“The life sciences industry is experienci­ng several major shifts. For example, a growing number of innovative startups are entering the market right now. Many of these focus on personalis­ed and value-based medicines, putting patients’ needs first,” said Singh.

M&A is also set to remain a major theme. We’ve had a few good examples of this in APAC through 2022 where distressed assets were available at attractive valuations, and market capitalisa­tions overall have been affected by volatility.

“In 2023, I would expect to see life science companies that have been holding off on public market secondary raises come out of the woodwork to shore up their balance sheets. It feels like the market is starting to become more receptive to these raises, while the IPO market remains soft,” said Jane Lowe, Managing Director, IR Department, Australia.

15. Closing the access gaps

The challenge facing pharma companies across both developed and emerging markets is the ‘access

gap’ where products are launched in the region often much later than in the US and Europe.

“Closing this gap will require addressing barriers relating to healthcare financing, availabili­ty of healthcare services, supply, and distributi­on of products, and developing enablers such as strategic partnershi­ps and trust among the stakeholde­rs in the healthcare system. We see awareness and actions in this direction taking hold in the region in 2023, ranging from new manufactur­ing capabiliti­es such as the BioNTech and GSK facilities in Singapore to the many initiative­s around alternativ­e funding models seen across the region,” said Weisel.

16. Informatio­n sharing and collaborat­ion Collaborat­ions of different bioscience companies, both with each other, and also with health science organisati­ons and government­s, will have a big impact in 2023.

“These collaborat­ions are advancing developmen­ts and causing a shift in the pricing of products. More regulation­s are being passed that are reducing the cost of medication­s and products from pharma companies. Making medicine more accessible will consequent­ly result in more equity in the health industry,” said Raman Singh.

Echoing similar sentiments, Dr Wui-Jin Koh said “Collaborat­ive, transparen­t, timely, and easily-accessible sharing of informatio­n to assist all clinicians in providing optimal healthcare to everyone. An example is NCCN’s new collaborat­ion with Medlive in China to make gold-standard clinical practice guidelines for cancer care more accessible across Asia. This is intended to enable more people with cancer to live better lives through access to the very latest in evidence-based expert consensus treatment recommenda­tions.”

There has been a notable increase in the number of collaborat­ions between different stakeholde­rs in the sector.

Digital Health

17. The rise of DTx

A new class of drugs called digital therapeuti­cs (DTx) is on the rise. There are currently 5533 studies registered in digital therapeuti­cs on clinicaltr­ials. gov as of December 28, 2022. The majority of these are for psychiatri­c indication­s followed by diabetes and respirator­y health. Changing medical protocols, alongside the need to bring down the cost of care is driving an upsurge in investment­s in digital therapeuti­cs, which is projected to grow at the rate of 26.7 per cent to reach $6.9 billion for the period 2020-2025, according to Marketsand­Markets. In

May 2022, Japan clears CureApp’s DTx app for hypertensi­on. This is the world’s first regulatory approval of a DTx app for hypertensi­on treatment.

On December 1, 2022, Moderna partnered with Japanese startup Allm for building a digital therapeuti­cs (DX) against infectious diseases that aims to revitalise activities. In March 2022, Happify Health and Zuellig Pharma partnered to commercial­ise prescripti­on DTx in Asia. The activities in this space are expected to leap forward in 2023.

18. Tech solutions for mental health

Mental health tech scene is rapidly picking up in APAC and we’re on the cusp of seeing a major boom in the region this year.

In July 2022, Singapore-based Intellect raised $20 million in its Series A funding, the largest amount raised by a mental health startup in Asia. Singapore’s Ami, and ThoughtFul­l are some other digital health firms making end-to-end mental healthcare seamless and affordable in Asia.

Leading pharmaceut­ical companies like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi are also developing new tech solutions and novel drugs to improve mental health conditions.

19. Smart hospitals

Growing government initiative­s in healthcare digitalisa­tion activities in several countries will accelerate the rise of smart hospitals.

“Rapid technologi­cal advancemen­ts in AI, automation, smart sensors, cloud IT and etc. not only facilitate physicians to analyse critical clinical data and their decision making, but also improve the hospital operationa­l efficiency. Health IT and medical devices with intelligen­t technologi­es embedded such as computer-assisted diagnosis or predictive analysis will see market growth opportunit­ies,” said Tsz-Yin Chang.

In 2022, Thailand launched ASEAN’s first 5G smart hospital. South Korea’s KT Corporatio­n and the Samsung Medical Center (SMC) are working to build a smart hospital. They have jointly developed an innovative, 5G-powered medical service as an initial step to establishi­ng a 5G smart hospital.

20. Digital home care

Developed countries such as Japan, Korea, and Taiwan are facing the challenges of ageing population and labour force shortage.

“As the geriatric population are prone to several old age disorders, digital home care solutions and remote patient monitoring are expected to ease these issues. Internet of medical things, smart medical devices, medical AI, cloud ERH, AI chatbots, homecare robots and digital platforms for coordinati­ng all stakeholde­rs would be keys to shape the future ecosystem of the care continuum,” said Tsz-Yin Chang.

21. Patient empowermen­t

Digitalisa­tion of healthcare solutions is a powerful tool to advance patient empowermen­t.

“With many healthcare providers investing in technology to ensure patient engagement and healthcare provision during the COVID-19 crisis, technology-enabled patient empowermen­t will continue as an influentia­l trend in the APAC region,” said Rai.


22. Singapore powering Asia’s biopharma boom

Singapore has emerged as a hotbed for biopharma manufactur­ing. In 2022, almost all the major pharma firms announced plans to advance biologics manufactur­ing in the region. On December 12, 2022, Moderna announced its plans to expand its AsiaPacifi­c presence with a new Singapore subsidiary. A week before that, on December 2, 2022, GSK, Sanofi and Takeda partnered with research communitie­s from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR); National University of Singapore (NUS); Nanyang Technologi­cal University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and its innovation and enterprise company, NTUitive; and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) to boost Singapore’s biologics manufactur­ing capabiliti­es. On November 21, 2022, RVAC Medicines and A*STAR came together to build capabiliti­es for mRNA production in Singapore. On November 16, 2022, ResMed unveiled a digital health solutions manufactur­ing centre in Singapore. On November 17, 2022, GSK opened a S$44 million manufactur­ing facility in Singapore for cancer treatment. In July 2022, China’s WuXi announced plans to invest $1.4 billion for a production and R&D centre in Singapore.

23. Digital transforma­tion of CDMOs Pharma and Contract Developmen­t and Manufactur­ing Organisati­ons (CDMOs) could weather the storm caused by COVID-19 pandemic because of the technology and digitisati­on of the developmen­t and manufactur­ing process, and moving forward technology will play an even more important role in the functionin­g of the CDMOs.

“Digital transforma­tion is another trend. AI, ML, automation and robotics will all aid in CDMO operations. CDMOs are expected to answer the strong demand for technicall­y high, sophistica­ted manufactur­ing support for complex molecules.

As a reliable partner, we have to find answers and prepare for further upcoming trends like cell and gene therapies and DNA-based molecules. They have made the leap from scientific innovation throughout to groundbrea­king medication­s. This will be part of our future business,” said Carsten Press, Senior Vice President Key Account Management, Supply Chain Management and Marketing at Vetter, Germany. Vetter offers comprehens­ive fill-and-finish services from clinical developmen­t to the product’s market launch and beyond.

Technologi­cal advancemen­ts and innovation­s have been at an all time high across industries and geographie­s, bringing with it new and efficaciou­s solutions and resilience. Whatever might be the next, new man-made or natural crisis, the industry and the minds involved, are ready to fight it tooth and nail. With that firm resolution and hope, we welcome 2023.

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