The COVID-19 pandemic diverted global attention toward the biotech and pharma industries, and the cell and gene therapy sector had found itself in a convenient position to produce vaccines and treatments in the fight against the virus.
However, these new opportunities have not come without obstacles, as regional lockdowns and added safety precautions around the world have threatened research, logistics and supply.
In February 2021, Informa Connect conducted a global survey to find out what innovation has been developing across the cell and gene therapy space in response to the pandemic.
Based on responses from 92 cell and gene therapy professionals, this final report reveals the biggest challenges faced by companies in the space, the most significant financial shifts and what new strategies have been adopted across research, supply chains, manufacturing and partnering.
- 78% of respondents said that they believe the pandemic has benefitted investment in the cell and gene therapy sector.
- 44% of respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic had significant impact on their raw and ancillary materials and supply chain.
- 63% of respondents said that the pandemic had caused them to re-evaluate or change their manufacturing or supply strategies.
- 52% of respondents said that their companies’ partnering and licensing activities had increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Impacts on Investment, Licensing and Finance
Investment in the Cell and Gene Therapy Sector
78% of respondents said that they believe the pandemic has benefitted investment in the cell and gene therapy sector.
Just over half of applicable respondents said that their companies’ partnering and licensing activities had increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Most of the remaining respondents said they had stayed about the same as before.
How has the pandemic affected your company's partnering/licensing activities?
Many respondents who said that their company’s partnering activities had increased added that the reason was to strengthen their supply chains and/or manufacturing capabilities.
A lot of respondents reported that meetings had become more frequent after switching to virtual formats, whether resulting in new partnerships, or purely nurturing current ones. However, some respondents described their collaboration as having been slowed down or completely disrupted.
“Project delays, reschedule of activities due to COVID-19 impacted my activities”
“Virtual meetings increase access to potential partners, but our financial limits have not allowed for much increase in business development”
“It has allowed for more meeting with acceptance of virtual meetings. The lack of time and effort spent on travel has allowed greater focus and productivity”
“With the world getting used to work virtually, many communications have become more effective across the globe, expediting some partnerships.”
“The supply chain has been strained during the pandemic which has forced us to look at ways to ensure our business model is more robust.”
“More contacts with manufacturer of drugs to be repurposed”
“More investment has been done with reference to platform technology and rapid commercialization”
“I think the pace of development (technical, clinical) slowed and people finally had time to address new partnerships, technologies, JV's - their world slowed a little and they had time to consider new ideas.”
“Focus on maintaining the current partnerships”
“Increase in COVID related projects”
Post-COVID-19 Financial Impact
From a business perspective, what do you think will be the biggest financial side effect of the pandemic?
The most common positive suggestions from respondents were increased financial interest in the sector from investors and the public, cost-savings in infrastructure and travel due to remote working and further investment in strengthening supply chains to avoid future delays.
Yet other respondents were more cynical, predicting global economic struggles and a lack of interest in programs not related to COVID-19.
“Increased logistics costs”
“Refocus to bioprocess and vaccine strategies impact cell therapies”
“Reduced drug prescriptions as patients were not attending medical facilities”
“Down-speed of patient recruitment”
“Remote work will become commonplace - reducing the need for building infrastructure - admin, executive, regulatory, marketing team - won't need to be in the office every day”
“Loss of revenue from non-COVID-related products”
“Chronic disease programs tend to delay due to urgent development needs for COVID-19”
“Higher investments - both public and private - in the cell therapy industry”
“Losses in global trade and economy”
“More investment of supplier resilience and, additional mfg capacity at CDMOs for clinical studies that have been delayed”
“More transactional sales and less relationship building due to remote meetings”
“Increased dual sourcing efforts to decrease supply chain risk translates to increase tech development to evaluate different vendors' products for comparability, opens up opportunities for more suppliers, increased spending in cell and gene therapy means less budget for other departments”
“Need for expanded storage capability”
Reimbursements for Cell and Gene Therapies
Just over half of the survey respondents said that they believed the pandemic will have some impact on reimbursements from governments and insurers for cell and gene therapies.
How do you think the pandemic will impact reimbursement from governments and insurers?
There was a variety of responses to this open-answered question. Most commonly, respondents believed that vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 would have a heavier priority in funding.
Some said they thought this may cause a reduction in reimbursement for other therapies. Other predictions included further proof for cost effectiveness and/or efficacy to be required for reimbursements, or that governments may lack budget to issue them.
“More expensive therapies may be given more consideration for reimbursement”
“The cashflow is a bigger challenge for government and insurance providers since there has been already significant investments in building infrastructure for combating COVID-19 and in providing cash reliefs to the fellow citizens”
“They may put efforts and invest on other therapies”
“Increased pressure to show cost effectiveness treatment”
“I think cost spent of vaccines will have a slowed effect on adoptment [sic] for reimbursement as the money is not there for other drugs. Insurance providers continue to raise rates to cover all COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and lowering available funds for additional reimbursement.”
“Hard to say, but from a macro perspective, it must be straining financial resources of healthcare providers and insurers. It seems likely that this will have broad impacts at some point, including CGT”
“Government finincentives [sic] increased. For insurers increased litigation.”
“Higher funding of research is already visible and will continue”
“If vaccines or treatments show to be efficient, they might be listed as eligible for reimbursement”
“Governments may be challenged on where to invest in cell and gene therapies versus dealing with support of vaccines (I think this is more long-term than how the media is playing out the supply)”
“Reimbursement will decrease”
“Insurers will want to hold the line [for] autologous therapies - extremely expensive may suffer”