2021 Rings in a New Era for Innovation Within the Pharmaceutical Industry

By Brian Fitzgerald | January 5, 2021

No matter how you feel about 2020, one thing is certain: it ushered in some major changes within the life sciences industry. Some of these changes are only temporary. However, others are sure to last.

As 2021 gets underway, we thought it would be fun to put some of the best minds in our organization together to predict what the next five years will look like. Here is what we came up with, we hope you enjoy.


Remote communication and collaboration will become the industry standard


COVID-19 completely changed the way we connect and collaborate with each other, both personally and professionally. Tools that were once viewed as optional became mission critical, especially if they helped facilitate remote workstreams. In-person was out, and remote was in – even for how companies transacted business with physicians.


For pharmaceutical commercial organizations, shrinking schedules and restrictive policies were already creating barriers for physician engagement. The threat of disease spread and other risk factors only compounded this, giving rise to greater adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and new forms of direct communication like web conferencing solutions and SMS text-messaging.


Clinical trial management was another area where remote tools really started to shine in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic created massive disruptions to clinical trial research, and thousands of trials were suspended or stopped because of the difficulties in continuing under lockdown conditions. Sites that stayed open relied heavily on technologies that automated processes and that enabled remote collaboration.


COVID also created a backlog of clinical trials that will need to be managed. As such, over the next several years, the implementation of a robust clinical trial management system will be top of mind for pharmaceutical organizations as they look to simplify and optimize their clinical trial processes.


As the industry builds on these technologies over the next five years, we anticipate that many will be used to help streamline things at the patient level as well. During clinical trials, for example, patients can log responses or facilitate interactions with the clinical trial team at the push of a button with smart devices. This will enable patients to be in constant communication with trial teams, without the need for around the clock supervision. Critical data will be collected at the moment, without the risks associated with time delays.


Smart devices will be the glue that connects these systems to people, and they won’t just be used by pharmaceutical commercial organizations either. They will also help care providers remotely monitor patients during clinical trials, at home treatments, and in other ways by providing real-time feedback at the push of a button.


Patient data will reign supreme 

As life sciences companies and physicians begin integrating smart devices into their lives, the future of IoT becomes even more exciting. In the near future, customized devices that sales reps give physicians will be used in tandem with patient devices to assist in the development of tailor-made therapeutics.


Consider, for example, an advanced IoT device that monitors a host of biochemistries and transmits results instantly without the patient stepping out of their house or pricking a finger. Critical therapeutic data could go from the patient to the physician – to the pharmaceutical company – in a simple, streamlined fashion. This will greatly improve the development of individualized, advanced therapeutics.


This type of patient-initiated data stream will also be vital to remote patient monitoring, and will help reduce the administrative burden for both patient and care provider by reducing patient visits and travel time. Real-time, remote monitoring will also provide consistent post-discharge feedback to help avoid readmissions, while lowering staff-based outreach calls and messaging to check in with the patient.



Remote monitoring will be especially important for those working in the area of specialized therapeutics. Roughly 125,000 unnecessary deaths occur each year in the United States because patients don’t follow their treatment protocols. In addition, medication nonadherence costs the US healthcare system $300 billion annually. All of these negatives can be greatly diminished when those responsible for adherence leveraged IoT devices.


Another use case will be in the streamlining of supply chains. Patient monitoring devices that send automatic updates to caregivers, and reminders to patients to take medications, will connect with life sciences companies to enable an instantaneous supply chain delivery of therapeutic needs.


Current and future IoT devices will create a new, symbiotic world of omnichannel engagement, not attainable through conventional multichannel-based means. It’s definitely a new industrial revolution, sure to create a better relationship between life sciences companies, physicians and patients.


The Lab of the Future (LoTF) is today

There are many ways that technology will be used within pharmaceutical lab environments, which is one reason Lab of the Future (LoTF) initiatives will gain in popularity over the next five years. On the facility management side, organizations will deploy smart building systems, wireless equipment sensors and RFID technology to better manage buildings, inventory and personnel. However, when it comes to automating various laboratory workflows between people and existing systems, IoT-powered platforms like Swittons will take LoTF to the next level.


In pharmaceutical lab settings, IoT will fill the gap between the scientist and the lab by automating functions such as: trigger equipment maintenance, opening equipment service ticket, notifying of temperature control deviation, re-stocking disposable supplies, summoning a lab runner and much more.


As more and more data scientists enter the R&D process, we’ll see a shift from mostly wet lab space to a more even mix of wet lab, flex lab and computational science space. Such teams, who can function effectively outside of an office-like setting, will be able to work remotely without disruption. Enabling some amount of virtual lab work will be a boon for companies, creating efficiencies and cost savings that will significantly impact the bottom line.


AI-driven everything

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to completely transform the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma is a field that’s been rich in data from the beginning, and new ways of managing and extracting value from that data are going to bring established players and agile new innovators light years ahead over the next five years. 


Where early data and analytics laid the foundations for a faster, and much more informed industry, AI is now taking things to a whole new level. AI is going beyond simple insights by providing proactive optimizations for a huge number of pharmaceutical processes, including drug formulation, sales enablement and predictive analysis.


Take AI-powered sales enablement for example; these tools include machine learning capabilities that enable real-time decision-making for sales organizations by providing deep insights derived from a wide variety of proprietary and tertiary datasets. Key functionality of these systems includes sales forecasting, churn prediction, brand propensity analysis, next best action insights and more. The tools even offer unique functionality for companies launching new drugs into the marketplace. Use cases and tested processes include customer alignment, customer master data management, territory planning and sizing, call planning, incentive compensation strategy and payout, roster management and field and management reporting.



In addition to sales, AI is going to prove extremely valuable within pharmaceutical research and development. The potential applications of AI are limitless in this area. However, one of the most exciting and promising use case for AI will be clinical trials. The potential for AI-driven innovation is especially significant in this area, and will enable better decision-making, amplify the tools and processes organizations already use, and tear down knowledge barriers so that trial data can be used more efficiently and effectively for the development of new, novel drugs.


The next 5 years will be full of innovation

Although the new normal for Pharma is still being framed, it is clear that certain trends are already taking shape. Some of these will pass as short-term anomalies, while others promise to become permanent realities. And as the next five years take shape, it will be interesting to see how our predictions play out. One thing is for certain, however, the years will surely be filled with innovation.


About P360

P360 is a leading developer of technology for the life sciences industry. Product offerings include the BirdzAI sales enablement platform, BirdzAI ZING Communication Module for compliant SMS text messaging, Data360 data management suite, Trials360 clinical trial management system, Swittons IoT-enabled smart devices, and the PatientJourney360 patient lifecycle management solution.