2021 Global Life Sciences Outlook: Possibility is now reality, sustaining forward momentum

Viewpoints / key findings

2021 global life sciences outlook: Possibility is now reality, sustaining forward momentum looks at the many ways COVID-19 accelerated change for the life sciences sector, the changes that are likely to stay, and what can be reimagined and made better. Suggestions are also provided to biopharma and medtech companies for consideration in the upcoming year.

As a result of the pandemic, the door to innovation was thrust open, and we all rushed in. Life sciences and medtech companies' decades of scientific work and investment seemed to be overnight successes. The heroic dedication of health care providers was met by the fastest novel vaccine development in history. Traditional competitors partnered to accelerate research and manufacturing. Governments, retail pharmacies, health systems, payers, and nonprofits are working together. The trend to digital health care is necessary.


We suggest global life sciences companies focus on the industry eco-system change navigated by the pandemic, and responded with leadership and build resiliency going forward in 2021. 


  • Redesigning work, workplace, and workforce, while meeting individual needs
    Work is in a continuous state of reimagination, and flexibility is more important than ever. In the coming year, organizations should take a more in-depth look at human resources and its evolving new role—encompassing the entirety of work, workplace, and workforce. Meanwhile, it is essential to find ways to keep the workforce feeling emotionally connected no matter how or where they work, to make well-being part of the culture.
  • Accelerated digitization: New points of care, new roles for pharma and medtec
    Virtual health’s acceleration broadens pharma’s role in the continuity of care. Governments in many countries give more fundings and supports,  ease regulations to telemedicine and virtual care. Demand for pharmacy home delivery surged during the pandemic, and retail pharmacies are growing to provide greater levels of health care services. As interest in virtual care, home care, and remote monitoring services grow, so will medtech’s competition from consumer technology companies.
  • A new customer-centric commercial model: Meeting physicians where they are, on their terms, and through more meaningful interactions
    After the pandemic, the pharma commercial model has shifted to digital and virtual engagement. Doctors and sales reps are using an evolving hybrid model which combines video calls and in-person visits. Industry companies should rethink how to engage with physicians and how to drive value through digital channels and products on demand.
  • New types of collaborations and clinical trials reshaping research & development
    Biopharma companies are adopting various strategies for innovating clinical trials to shorten timelines, including new trial designs and new technologies such as AI. Public-private partnerships are also on the rise with more collaboration between governments, research institutions, and the private sector. More trials will be hybrid trials—a combination of in-person and virtual visits. Advances in data science and analytics drive a big shift to transformative approaches in drug development.
  • Shortening development and review timelines, thinking more like a regulator
    For telehealth and remote clinical trials during COVID-19, regulators around the world worked hand in hand with industry rather than just having an endpoint type of review. Continued collaboration between governments, industry, and new players will likely fund innovative technologies for widespread diseases based on the model that evolved during the pandemic. Apart from this, the best way to understand what a regulator wants is to study inspections and processes from the regulator’s perspective, analyzing risks and benefits carefully.
  • Cross-border reliance intensifies the need for supply chain visibility and reshoring options
    The current pandemic highlights the need to redesign supply chains and is creating a new level of urgency. Organizations should evaluate their end-to-end supply chain plan holistically and include their strategic, operational, and financial leaders to optimize resiliency.
  • Advancing humanity: Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) imperatives
    Measuring ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) progress is critical to building trust and advancing the sector’s role in society. Companies that have already built ESG strategies, measurements, and high-quality disclosures into their business models are likely to be well positioned to capitalize on opportunities and drive long-term value post crisis.


Biopharma and medtech companies should embrace the pace of change, innovations, and norms adopted over the past year. Successful organizations will take these lessons—from new ways of working, collaborating, and operating digitally—sustain them, and work to institutionalize them.

In 2021, with a newfound, elevated role in society, the sector can make greater impact toward a more compassionate, equitable world—a world where everyone can truly thrive. Possibility is now reality.

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