COVID changed our world forever—no one will forget the profound effect this modern pandemic has had on our everyday lives. Thankfully, we finally see the end of the pandemic, thanks in large part to the biotechnology industry. Without its immediate and tireless work to figure out what COVID-19 was, to develop therapeutics to treat it, and to finally find a way to protect against it with several vaccines, we might still be in dire straits today.
Biotech definitively changed COVID, but did the virus change our industry? Today, we speak with experts about the lasting effect the pandemic has had on biotech and what changes we expect to see permanently.
The transmission and spread of COVID highlighted how intricately everything on the planet is connected—the concept of “One Health.”
“The real basics behind the One Health concept is that the health of people, the health of animals, and the health of our environment are inextricably linked. So, changes in one affect the others,” explains Dr. William Karesh, Executive Vice President for Health and Policy at the Echo Health Alliance. “One Health brings that together – rather than saying that human health and animal health, environmental health are separate and can be addressed separately, they can’t be addressed separately because they interact so much.”
With that idea of connection and oneness comes a natural need for collaboration, which we saw first-hand in the fight against COVID-19. Cartier Esham, BIO’s Chief Scientific Officer, says “companies jumped in because they wanted to help solve the global crisis…It was their challenge to meet; and they did so.”
And we are thankful they did.
It was truly an all-hands-on deck approach. Companies in the space pivoted from research projects to help. Aaron Sato, Chief Scientific Officer of Twist Bioscience, said that the company was able to provide scientific researchers at other biotech companies with synthetic versions of the virus to study which minimized their exposure risk. Helping other companies was not a fiscal decision, but a moral one.
Because of this collaboration for the public good, public opinion of the biotech industry has drastically improved. Ron Foshay of Service Research Insights says “the extraordinary effort made to develop safe and effective vaccines, one survey reported, shows that positive ratings of pharmaceutical companies went from 32% in early 2020 to 62% in early 2021. That’s a really big jump.”
Collaboration and improved public opinion weren’t the only good outcomes to come from battling COVID-19. Karesh highlights another – greater public understanding of the industry and clinical testing as a whole. And Esham hopes that the COVID-era change in clinical testing practices of bringing trials to patients will have a profound and beneficial impact on clinical trials of the future.
Biotechnology has always been home to rapidly changing science, but COVID-19 fundamentally reshaped tenets of the industry in a way that will likely benefit more people.
Listen to the entire episode here.
This episode is sponsored by FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies.