Biden names 31 tech hubs: Here are 10 relevant to pharma and biotech

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Traditionally, the tech and biotech sectors in the U.S. have been concentrated in a handful of regions — most notably in areas such as Boston, Seattle, Silicon Valley and Southern California. But the Biden administration aims to distribute innovation more evenly through the U.S. To that end, the administration has designated 31 tech hubs across the U.S. to help drive innovation and job creation in a variety of industries.

These tech hubs are part of a competitive program involving $500 million in federal funding, with each hub eligible to apply for $50–$75 million to drive innovation in their respective focus areas. Here, we highlight 10 hubs that are especially relevant to the pharma and biotech sectors, describing their unique focus areas.

Three of the regions were featured in an earlier Drug Discovery & Development roundup on emerging biotech hubs: Baltimore, Maryland; Mad…

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A checklist for unlocking the promise of AI in clinical trials

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AI algorithms offer a myriad of advantages for clinical trials. AI techniques can, for instance, support patient enrollment and site selection, improve data quality and enhance patient outcomes. AI algorithms — combined with an effective digital infrastructure — can also help aggregate and manage clinical trial data in real time, as Deloitte has noted. Last week, a startup revealed an AI system that can accurately predict clinical trial outcomes.

Yet for organizations to fully realize AI’s promise is not simple. The task requires oversight, transparency and diverse collaboration. Core considerations include educating users to build trust in AI tools and ensuring the clinical precision of medical-grade AI algorithms. From unraveling the ‘black box’ of algorithms to safeguarding patient privacy, this article provides a checklist to help organizations responsibly incorporat…

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Balancing on a tightrope, pharma’s generative AI journey straddles fear and FOMO

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Pharma and biotech companies have had a spectrum of responses to the surge in generative artificial intelligence (AI). A recent Washington Post article describes an unnamed biotech firm that banned employees from using OpenAI’s ChatGPT despite its capability to bolster productivity given concerns over potential data leaks. At the same time, the burgeoning AI landscape have created a fear of missing out, or FOMO, among businesses, including the pharma sector. “There’s this fear of missing out that I think is driving everybody to do something,” said Scott Snyder, chief digital officer at Eversana. On a tightrope of fear and FOMO, the pharmaceutical industry’s journey with generative AI continues with some companies taking more of a wait-and-see approach and others forging ahead with the technology to, for instance, discovery novel compounds.

Eversana is among those that ar…

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Pharma M&A trends in Q2 2023: Strategic acquisitions rise as deal-making cools

Visual representation of recent M&A trends in the pharma sector.

The pharma industry in 2023 has been marked by an uptick of M&A activity. The year began with a relative frenzy of massive mergers. Pfizer’s $43 billion acquisition of Seagen and Amgen’s $27.8 billion purchase of Horizon Therapeutics earlier in the year were notable examples. But that initial spike of billion-dollar megamergers significantly cooled in the second quarter.

Looking at the M&A activity in pharma in Q2 2023, the deal size of transactions in Q2 2023 were notably smaller, too. Check out the scatter plot below. The largest M&A transaction in the second quarter of the year was Novartis’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Chinook Therapeutics. This trend indicates that companies are prioritizing smaller, more strategic acquisitions to diversify their portfolios.

Deals could pick up in the second half of…

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McKinsey has a digital prescription for pharma processing

Digital plant maturity model. Image courtesy of Emerson.

Given the recent surge in interest in generative AI, it’s no wonder that consultancies like McKinsey are making hay of the situation. The consultancy recently argued that “Rewired pharma companies will win in the digital age.” In a separate feature, it noted that generative AI could boost biopharma R&D productivity by billions, as we reported on Drug Discovery & Development.

It is true that the pharma sector faces significant headwinds as digital and analytical capabilities reshape healthcare. To keep up with this rapid pace of change, McKinsey argues that pharma companies must tap digital technologies to improve patient outcomes, increase efficiency and drive growth. Many firms are hiring chief digital and technology officers, it noted, but digital adoption in pharma generally remains at an early phase.

Building a solid d…
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Sanofi bets on AI-powered decision making

Unveiling Sanofi’s AI-powered pharma strategy, the French pharma giant announced its plans to tap AI for insights across the company. With “plai,” an internal app, AI is utilized to provide real-time data supporting decision-making.

Sanofi’s goal, as CEO Paul Hudson stated in a news release, is to become the first pharma company powered by AI at scale, “giving our people tools to make better everyday decisions.”

How Sanofi’s AI-powered pharma strategy compares to other industry moves

Several other companies have initiated similar AI-powered moves over the years. For instance, in December 2016, Pfizer and IBM inked a deal to use IBM Watson for drug discovery in immuno-oncology. Roche has explored using machine learning for diabetes diagnostics while companies like Novartis have advertised hundreds of AI hires in recent years.

Challenges of AI in healthcare and Sanofi’s AI-powered pharma strategy

Yet, deploying AI in healthcare sett…

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Pharmaceutical industry layoffs continue: Bristol Myers Squibb, Novavax and Takeda the latest to announces cuts

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The pharma industry has shed a significant number of jobs in 2023. The most recent company to announce cuts is Bristol Myers Squibb, which laid off 48 workers in Princeton, New Jersey. Other companies making cuts include Takeda, cutting more than 180 jobs, and Novavax, letting go of one-quarter of its workforce.

Other companies that have announced workforce reductions in the first quarter of the year include Grifols, which is cutting 2,300 workers. Neoleukin Therapeutics in Seattle went so far to cut  70% of their workforce. Other companies such as Amgen and Thermo Fisher also experienced layoffs in the first few months of the year, with 750 and 230 job cuts respectively.

Notably, some companies made even more drastic cuts, with Cyteir Therapeutics, Jounce Therapeutics, Instil Bio, Frequency Therapeutics and TCR² Therapeutics all reducing their workforces by more than half. Ari…

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Navigating generative AI in drug discovery and data analysis: Seizing the opportunity and avoiding pitfalls

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Along with predictive AI, generative AI is emerging as a promising tool in drug discovery. Thanks in part to the rise of ChatGPT, interest in the technology in drug discovery is on the upswing. In March, a preprint appeared examining the potential to use generative AI to enable de novo antibody design. Also this year, the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. began working with NVIDIA to launch Tokyo-1, a project aimed at boosting Japan’s pharma industry with generative AI models. The initiative will give Japanese pharma companies and startups access to an NVIDIA DGX AI supercomputer, providing a shot in the arm to the country’s $100 billion pharma sector, which is the third largest globally.

As generative AI gains ground in  pharma, businesses considering using the technology to speed up drug discovery should also take its potential drawbacks into considering. To that end, Ali Arsanjan…

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The pros and cons of membrane-based WFI generation and distillation for biopharma

Modern ambient water for injection (AWFI) generation system [Image courtesy of CRB]

The pharma industry is in the process of moving toward ambient water for injection (WFI).

Despite changes to regulations almost five years ago that allowed for alternative methods of generating WFI, the industry has been slow to fully embrace the shift away from traditional distillation despite the significant advantages of membrane-based WFI generation.

For companies with legacy distillation systems, the investment in new equipment for ambient WFI can be significant. Given its history, many pharmaceutical companies are familiar with the traditional distillation method.

In this article, industry experts from CRB, Chris Carlson and Jarrod Wrampe, describe the considerations to keep in mind when choosing between membrane-based WFI and traditional distillation for pharma applications.

Pro for membrane-based WFI …
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Drug shortage Alert: Millions of patients affected as FDA reports shortfalls of essential drugs

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Millions of U.S. patients are facing medication shortages, according to recent FDA data. The Adderall drug shortage in particular has received significant attention in recent months. Other notable drugs currently facing shortages include the bronchodilator Albuterol and the popular antibiotics amoxicillin and azithromycin.

The pandemic and supply chain challenges are partly to blame for the drug shortages. In recent years, manufacturing output for some drugs sank as a result of factors such as pandemic-induced restrictions and worker shortages. The pandemic also contributed to supply chain disruptions. For instance, China and India, both major suppliers of active pharmaceutical ingredients and other materials. As a result, the pharma industry has been forced to find new ways to ensure a steady supply of raw materials and ingredients.

To illustrate the imp…

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Pharma sector’s reputation dips in 2022 report

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The pharmaceutical industry’s reputation has slid over the past year, according to recent research from reputation data specialist RepTrak (Boston). This year, the sector had a reputation score of 71.3, placing it below the tobacco and transportation sectors but ahead of the retail and consumer services industries.

“With opinions conflicting on the COVID-19 vaccine, and the government’s role in mandating it, this YoY decrease shows that history-changing vaccines were not enough to distract from Pharma’s original sins,” the 2022 Global RepTrak 100 report explained.

Last year, however, the pharma industry had the most significant year-over-year reputational improvement of any sector, according to RepTrak’s 2021 reputational ranking.

The Harris Poll found a similar trend in February, when it found that 47% of people had a positive view o…

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Assessing pharma headwinds and tailwinds in mid-2021

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Now that we have passed the year’s midway mark, pharma continues to be in a unique position.

While COVID-19 gave the industry an opportunity for a reputational reset in 2020, the pandemic is now a net positive for the industry, according to the recent Moody’s report, “Solid demand, lift from COVID-19 products continue to drive positive outlook.”

While demand for COVID-19 vaccines has ebbed recently in the U.S., Moody’s projects strong vaccine sales overall for the remainder of 2021. Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) upped their guidance for vaccine sales to $26 billion in their first-quarter earnings report. “Their approach to guidance for revenue is based on contracts that have been signed,” said Michael Levesque, lead author of the report. Thus, any future contracts that Pfizer signs after that guidance update will further expand their guidance …

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