The future of biopharma

Reimagining traditional business models in 2040

Over the next 20 years, we expect biopharma business models to be reshaped by five forces— from inside and outside of the industry—that will likely require current players to evaluate shifting markets and determine how they will compete. Biopharma companies will continue to develop new ways to treat and cure a wide range of diseases. However, actionable health insights, driven by radically interoperable data and artificial intelligence (AI), can help clinicians and consumers identify illness much earlier than we do today. Vaccines and other early interventions could prevent a greater number of diseases from developing in the first place. Other illnesses might be prevented through nonpharmacological treatments. Shifts in how diseases are identified, prevented, treated, or cured may lead to fundamentally different business models for traditional biopharma companies and new entrants.

Researchers from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions interviewed 14 thought leaders (futurists, venture capitalists, digital health leaders, and academics) to find out how they expected the identification, prevention, and treatment of disease to evolve between now and 2040. Through these interviews, five forces emerged that could alter the course of the biopharmaceutical sector. These forces represent both opportunities and threats to incumbents. The five forces are:

  1. Prevention and early detection: Vaccines and improvements in wellness could help prevent disease, making treatment for some diseases no longer necessary. Advances in early detection will likely enable interventions that halt diseases in the earliest stages—before they progress to more serious conditions.
  2. Customized treatments: Personalization in medicine—driven by data-powered insights—could effectively match patients with customized drug cocktails, or design therapies that would work for just a few people, or even a particular person (i.e., “n of 1”).
  3. Curative therapies: As with prevention, treatments that cure disease could reduce or eliminate the demand for some prescription medicines. Curative therapies include gene and cell therapies. Developing, marketing, and pricing these curative treatments could require the biopharma sector to adopt new capabilities.
  4. Digital therapeutics: Increasingly effective and scalable nonpharmaceutical (digital) interventions—including those focused on behaviour modification—might also reduce or eliminate demand for medications. This technology could be a viable alternative to traditional pharmacologic treatments, or used in concert with medications, devices, or other therapies to optimize patient care and health outcomes.
  5. Precision intervention: Increasingly sophisticated medical technology—such as precise medical intervention enabled by robotics, nanotechnology, or tissue engineering—could reduce the need for pharmaceutical intervention. They could lead to dramatically improved outcomes in cancer, infectious disease, inflammatory conditions, and chronic pain.

The forces of change highlighted in this paper are likely to reshape, if not shrink, the market for biopharma products. Biopharma companies should consider the potential for disruption by these forces as they redefine the types of products and solutions they will offer, where they will compete, and the new capabilities they will require. Company leaders should develop strategies to counter potential threats and take advantage of the short- and long-term opportunities that emerge in this changing environment. Organizations that ignore these forces and maintain the status quo could wind up shrinking in parallel to the demand for drug interventions to manage symptomatic diseases.

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