COVID-19 Summer Resurgence: What Biotechnology Companies Can Do To Prepare for the Next Pandemic

COVID-19 Summer Resurgence: What Biotechnology Companies Can Do To Prepare for the Next Pandemic

COVID-19 Summer Resurgence: What Biotechnology Companies Can Do To Prepare for the Next Pandemic

Before COVID-19, many Americans associated the word ‘pandemic’ with movies and TV shows; the topic made for a good story but had no basis in reality. But what used to qualify as entertainment is now our everyday existence. Three years into the post-pandemic normal, we now know pandemics exist and that we can do little to stop them. Moreover, research suggests what was once an ‘every 100-year event’ is now likely to occur more frequently as climate change and habitat destruction increase the risk of disease emergence. And then there’s the Washington Post report that COVID-19 is resurging this summer

With the shadow of another pandemic always looming, there’s no better time for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to prepare for the future. In this white paper, we highlight 4 actions that can be taken to prepare for another pandemic while reducing death and getting vaccines to populations quickly. 

  1. Develop a framework that supports biopharmaceutical collaboration

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the private and public sectors came together quickly and more efficiently than at any time in history. Decisionmakers in Washington D.C. and C-suites across the country cut through piles of red tape and created intellectual property incentives that spurred collaboration. 

Unfortunately, many of these changes have now returned to the status quo. And without an official framework in place, it could take weeks or even months to ignite the same types of partnerships in the future. 

The UK Government’s 100-Day Mission, launched in 2022, provides a blueprint for the future. Specifically, the program brings together more than 300 subject matter experts, including scientists, government representatives, and business leaders, to determine how they can respond to a new disease threat. The goal? To create safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics within 100 days of identification

Though only a thought experiment, the 100-Day Mission establishes a framework for arranging voluntary partnerships, technology transfers, and business-to-business agreements. Considering how crucial these collaborations were to combat COVID-19, it’s safe to assume they will be even more necessary during the next pandemic.

  1. Foster sustainable manufacturing practices globally

One of the biggest challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented was a lack of vaccine access. Wealthy countries, like the United States, Canada, and Australia, were able to vaccinate their populations relatively quickly, while poorer countries had to wait months or even years for access. 

Access to COVID-19 vaccines is still sporadic more than 4 years after the pandemic began. In fact, studies show that countries with the smallest economies still lag in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. 

While there’s no quick fix for these disparities, fostering sustainable manufacturing practices could make a significant difference. With them, it will be easier to provide safe, effective vaccines to people all over the world. Likewise, a sustainable manufacturing focus encourages government authorities to create a welcoming business environment that attracts investments, cross-country partnerships, and voluntary technology transfers.

  1. Embrace the use of master protocols

A master protocol is a trial design that uses a single, over-arching blueprint to test multiple drugs or therapeutics without developing individual guidelines for separate sub-studies. In less scientific terms –– it speeds up research by lumping related topics together. Some industry experts argue that Pfizer and Moderna could have developed their COVID-19 vaccines even faster if they’d taken this approach during Operation Warp Speed (the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vaccine effort).

We can’t go back in time, but creating master protocols in the present could be key to bringing researchers together during a future health crisis. Since master protocols allow several studies to share operational aspects and design components, they make it easier for researchers to answer more than one question at a time. This saves money, speeds up therapeutic discovery, and ensures research is conducted ethically and efficiently. 

  1. Use biological insights to foster discovery

Often, clinical research focuses on people who are sick. This is understandable, as scientists are always looking for ways to alleviate or cure diseases. However, a growing number of researchers say enrolling healthy patients in trials is just as important.

With the rise of AI and big data, it’s easier than ever to compare the biological profile of healthy folks with those who have developed an illness. Exploring the similarities and differences between these two groups lets researchers identify unique genetic mutations, proteins, and metabolites that could be key to developing new drugs, vaccines, and therapeutics. 

By changing the requirements for enrollment in clinical trials, it’s possible to make breakthroughs in the present, while also preparing for future pandemics. 

The bottom line

As much as we’d like to forget the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the only time we have to prepare for the future. Pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms can help lead the way, with the support of regulatory bodies and government authorities. 

Anticipating the next pandemic isn’t glamorous, but if our industry doesn’t make these necessary changes, we could find ourselves in a similar situation (and on the defensive) when the next global health crisis occurs. 

To learn more about the CRO services we provide, call (781) 775-0342 or send an email to [email protected].

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