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All things Pharma

Predictions for pharma in 2022

Pauls Simms’ annual predictions, co-hosted this year with Jessica DaMassa and delivered as a webinar, is fast becoming an unmissable event for anyone in the pharma industry. Given the pandemic challenges of the last 18 months, it would be easy for any trends to gravitate towards the safe and predictable for 2022, but Paul delights in provoking real possibilities, unleashing bold new future scenarios, threaded with realities facing pharma and healthcare today. As an industry advocate, he is brave – both as an individual and through his new consultancy, Impatient Health.

So, what were Paul’s predictions for 2022? Below are his 10 pointers for the year ahead.

1. Pharma goes digitally native

Paul referenced the importance of understanding Gen Z, or the Tiktok generation, made up of people born between 1997 and 2012. This is a generation who prefers to receive healthcare online through their smart phone, may have no local GP, is price sensitive and naturally cynical – instantly rejecting any corporate-speak or glossy story. Adventure, entertainment and shareability mixed with authenticity, transparency and legitimacy are the highly prized features of their information sources.

2. Amazon buys Teva

It made sense for Amazon to buy a generic pharma company as their current challenge was to maintain the trajectory of their stock price, needing to increase their top line revenues by almost $250 billion in the next two years. Amazon might not necessarily want to go into healthcare, but it has to and it will do.

3. Biotech bursts

Paul then shifted attention to the current reality: biotech is currently living on borrowed time. 2021 broke records for the amount of capital raised, and there is plenty of money still floating around from both venture capital and big pharma looking to boost pipelines. In summary, his point well-made was that the market is simply unsustainable.

4. Pharma’s reputation hit where it hurts

For his fourth point, Paul predicted reputations in 2022 will take a hit. Whether positive or negative, reputations and authenticity will directly impact a company’s worth, irrespective of their commercial performance, ushering in a new age of corporate sustainability that looks very different from what we’ve seen before. Pharma companies in the past have presided over multiple scandals – but have survived as profits have rarely been affected significantly but this is going to change.

5. The beginning of the end for pharma’s commercial teams

Pharma’s commercial teams will transform, in a similar way to the recent disentanglement of hotels and their travel agents. Paul sees the future of a small number of central digital locations where good UX, good knowledge and trusted interaction with peers generating a ‘safe space’ for learning and sharing.

6. Nationalism as the path to health equity

On point 6, Paul painted a dystopian picture of nations not opening borders to share more vaccine donations but instead more hoarding and playing hardball. Countries will set up their own regulatory systems and conditions, preferring not to ‘outsource the health of their nation to a foreign body’, echoing George W Bush’s famous “we should never outsource America’s national security line’ when referring to the UN.

7. Reimagining medicine: a psychedelic power trip

Paul also predicts a new category for pharma portfolios – psychedelics. He also alluded to drugs like ketamine in strictly clinically controlled conditions. As he explained, ketamine has been identified by the World Health Organisation as an essential medicine: if your child was to break a bone and receive an anaesthetic, ketamine would typically be a first choice treatment over opoids and other options.

While most of us have been distracted by the pandemic, the psychedelic industry has exploded.

8. Elon Musk gets into pharma

Paul foresees Elon Musk setting his sights on pharma and predicts Musk – with his proven disruption of the automotive industry though Telsa – could easily take on the might of pharma industry. He references Elon Musk’s tweets showing evidence of his interest in this space on multiple occasions and believes that his fondness for RNA software structure could work well with pharma.

9.No code’ breeds new intrapreneurs and patient pioneers
Not in the webinar but as a bonus point, Paul foresees a certain level of technological understanding, or digital maturity, required in order to envision what’s possible in the future, unleashing a fluidity of creation and design. Good news for our digital creatives – and also patients – as he predicts the growing biohacker movement will unleash imagination and passion to begin building themselves.

10. The rise of synthetic data

And lastly on point 10, Paul predicts that using synthetic data will be key to accelerating many arms of development. As he explains, synthetic data allows for much more openness with information when sharing with partners and amongst different teams: there is nothing more private than data which has never existed in real life. It can also completely overcome bias or health equity concerns. As we tune the generation of data, we can create it at scale, and yet it still reflects reality.

And so, those are the daring predictions for 2022. What’s certain is that Jan 2023 will be very different for this industry. In the words of David Bowie “I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg…I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.”

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David Reilly
David Reilly is Managing Director of Let’s Learn Digital, educating and inspiring business in digital and emerging technologies.

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