Lorraine Marchand, a member of the faculty of the Biotechnology Management and Entrepreneurship program at the Katz School and a leader of life sciences consulting at IQVIA, an American multinational company serving the combined industries of health information technology and clinical research, met up with Helena Goodman, a marketing manager at Yeshiva University, to discuss the longstanding impacts of COVID-19 on the biotech industry.
Q: What are some industry trends that you have noticed in response to COVID-19?
The impact on biotech supply chains was a double shock wave. First, the virus hit China, which impacted the industry because the U.S. is dependent on China for key components and products. As the U.S. tried to shift its supply chain locally, COVID-19 hit the states. This brought on a second shock wave as substitute markets were hit with the virus and couldn’t produce as usual. One shortage in particular was PPE (personal protective equipment) and another was ventilators. We realized then that while every pandemic is different, we were clearly not prepared for this one. We realized that our stockpile of PPE and ventilators was insufficient and that our supply chain is overly reliant on China.
Q: What will the long-term impacts be?
Many, in the public and private sectors, are examining the long-term effects this pandemic will have on the industry. Congress is looking at a bill on the U.S.’s dependency on China for supply chain needs. I think there will be an industry wide effort to find a balance on fulfilling supply-chain needs nationally and overseas. The FDA is also seeking to create greater visibility on how the supply chains work for med-tech, pharma and bio-tech companies. Previously, the FDA was not heavily involved. The details of this process are pretty important, as some industries have tried to pivot and help produce PPE during the shortage and have not been able to do so with regulatory-grade supplies and parts. Moving forward, the FDA would like to implement a monitoring system to create more transparency in the supply chain and to anticipate shortages and prevent situations like the one we’re currently experiencing.
COVID-19 has also exposed a much bigger issue: we can no longer operate a supply-chain model driven primarily by efficiency. We need visibility, backup suppliers and a digital transformation of the whole process so that we can track each step. Governments and industry big players need to think about pandemic preparedness by simulating supply-chain disasters and creating plans to work together By using digital technology and simulation techniques, companies can create networking models to support their needs on demand.
Q: How have companies been working together during the crisis?
We have seen a trend of collaboration and innovation from companies during these hard times. Companies are using open-source models to build in equipment and products. Medtronic and Tesla have partnered, as have other companies across different industries, resulting in many unlikely and interesting partnerships. Those who have the necessary parts are joining forces with companies with the required know-how. We are also seeing companies explore how to automate and miniaturize equipment in order to bring them into people’s homes rather than hospitals. This collaboration is particularly inspiring.
Q: Do you see this collaborative spirit continuing beyond the pandemic?
We have reached a tipping point with telehealth and telemedicine, and I believe those new practices are here to stay. It would be interesting to see how these cross-industry partnerships could stick as well. The work done through COVID-19 has produced new intellectual property for these collaborators that may incentivize companies to continue working together. And, of course, companies working together on vaccines will continue, because it is a multiyear process.
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