Navigating the 2024 life science industry trends landscape

Published: 12-Jan-2024

As we step into 2024, the global life science industry finds itself at a crossroads, facing plenty of challenges alongside an abundance of exciting opportunities. ramarketing's CEO, Emma Banks, reports

The pharmaceutical and contract outsourcing space has shifted, with new trends emerging that will shape the future of this rapidly changing industry.

The global stage has witnessed significant upheavals throughout 2023, with wars impacting everything from oil prices to work locations.

Inflation and rising material costs have cut into the profits of many life science companies and a continuation of the COVID comedown has left vaccine producers facing challenges and emphasising the need for the diversification of capabilities. 

As a specialist life sciences marketing agency focused on helping companies to get noticed and grow globally, ramarketing is well placed to shine a spotlight on the life science and marketing trends that our expert team feels will dominate the year ahead. Let’s get into the trends we are predicting for 2024.

Biotech investment slowdown: a cautionary post-COVID tale 

The roaring success of biotech investments during the pandemic has hit a speed bump. As other sectors gain traction post-COVID, biotechs face a slowdown owing to rapidly increasing interest rates and the diversification of investments.

This shift poses risks and a reduction in the flow of money with less capital available for biotech companies. Faced with this challenge, biotech firms are now reevaluating and being more cautious with their investment strategies, focusing on specific assets within their pipelines.

Navigating the 2024 life science industry trends landscape

Says one outsourced vendor: "Tthe biggest trend we've seen is the number of customers that are not necessarily well-funded. Many of them have far less cash than they've had in the past."

"As a result of that, they're much more cautious regarding how they're spending their capital. They're very selective on their number of assets. We've seen a lot of deprioritisation of assets. They're looking for more creative funding, where they give us stock. We can only take so many bets and I think that's the challenge.”

Increasing focus on supply chains

The vulnerabilities exposed by COVID have led to a renewed emphasis on securing and optimising supply chains. Onshoring is gaining prominence owing to geopolitical tensions, with more business flowing from East to West.

That said, there are a growing number of Asian CDMOs coming to the fore of the industry, particularly in markets such as Japan and South Korea.

The concept of "domesticating" gains momentum, as countries such as Canada invest heavily to be better prepared for future pandemics.

“Canada has a nice R&D rebate programme, which factored into our decision to go with our vendor. If it's qualified as research, you can get a good percentage of that back from the Canadian government,” notes one biotech.

Shifting social platform priorities

Across industries, businesses are becoming increasingly ruthless with their social presence and this is no different for companies operating in life sciences.

Understanding that cross-posting with duplicate content no longer delivers results, companies in the healthcare sector are pulling back from social platforms such as X (Twitter), Threads and Pinterest owing to uncertainty about the futures of these platforms and, instead, focusing on primary platforms that deliver results — such as LinkedIn. 

To quote a Hootsuite Healthcare Social Trends report: “Just because a healthcare organisation is active on a platform, doesn’t mean they’re sold on the ROI it drives. Take Twitter/X, for example. More than half (55%) of healthcare companies have a presence there ... but less than a third feel strongly that it delivers a positive ROI."

"And considering the platform’s 12% drop in daily active users between November 2022 and September 2023, maybe that’s not such a shock. Organisations are now more willing than ever to say goodbye to platforms and strategies that aren’t meeting their definition of ROI.”

Continued explosion of advanced novel modalities

Cell and gene therapies, CAR-Ts and oligonucleotides continue to grow within the clinical pipelines, promising groundbreaking treatments. Despite regulatory challenges and complexities in commercialisation, the focus on these novel modalities remains strong. Companies specialising in platforms supporting these new products play a critical role in the success of these therapies.

Real focus on partnerships

The life science outsourcing market remains highly fragmented; with more than 400 players in the biopharma CDMO space alone, businesses and investors face almost limitless options. 

Navigating the 2024 life science industry trends landscape

This trend is coupled with a shift towards innovative partnerships; biotechs are now seeking risk-sharing models and flexible collaborations with CROs and CDMOs. It’s time for companies to explore models beyond traditional fee-for-service arrangements, ensuring maximum value and conservation of cash. 

Video and short-form content remains dominant

In recent years, alternate formats and snackable content have surged in popularity. The same can be said for the life sciences sector; consumers are looking for high-value content that requires minimal time investment from their side. 

No matter the target persona, easily digestible content — be it online webinars or key point carousel posts — is key to catching attention and gathering valuable lead data. 

New breed of biotechs

Despite challenges, long-term funding trends for biotechs look positive. A leaner and more capital-efficient approach is emerging, with biotechs relying more on outsourcing. Mastering the vendor ecosystem and investing in innovative partnership models are becoming key strategies for success.

“So when I got to BMS, our process for developing a protocol took 12 months from the idea of a clinical trial to implementation. When I was at Rockefeller, the timeline from an idea to implementation was less than a month."

"Because we were an academic, we didn't have the process that a Big Pharma has and in the environment we’re in, we can't afford to delay 12 months to develop and launch a new clinical trial,” comments Ian Walters of Portage Bio.

AI: a disruptive force

AI and digitisation are transforming the industry and we expect to see this evolve further in 2024. From drug discovery to clinical trials, AI is already beginning to save time, reduce manual efforts and improve overall efficiency. Companies with AI-enabled platforms are set to become sought-after partners.

Marketing practices and processes are also being heavily influenced by AI. Both agencies and in-house teams are utilising tools to make efficiencies. There is still more to consider and refine as AI continues to evolve and the jury is still out on some of the ethical considerations regarding this technology.  

A biotech VC asks: “How does AI seep into this world? And does that put pressure on everybody to just get things done more quickly? Can I do some of that myself or hire those people to do that?"

An outsourced vendor adds: “Something may not be a big deal now but, in 5 years, it may be a very big deal as you think about AI. If you can electronically collect, organise and analyse your datasets faster, you will be well ahead with speed and quality compliance will be much easier.”

Collaborative content and the role of influencers

As a growing trend in B2B marketing, engaging with influencers will become a bigger part of life sciences marketing in 2024, providing an opportunity to raise awareness in key markets and gain credible endorsements. 

Influencers can come in many forms, ranging from key industry journalists and popular podcast hosts to leaders of industry bodies and trade associations.

Others have gained influential status for their active participation in the industry for many years or as keynote speakers on forward-looking topics.

The trick will be identifying the influencers that best align with your brand and figuring out how best to leverage their audience network to increase your own brand’s exposure and credibility. 

We also expect to see more collaborative content in 2024, with the launch of LinkedIn collaborative articles. This will be one of many ways to grow your presence as a thought-leading, industry influencer. 

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Outsourcing is king

R&D spending and clinical pipelines continue to grow, driving the need for outsourcing to access specialist capabilities, expertise and capacity.

The total addressable market for outsourcing in the life science sector is vast and continues to expand. Despite challenges, outsourcing remains a key driver of success for companies ranging from big pharma to virtual start-ups and biotechs.

As we stare head-on at the complex landscape of 2024, the life science industry stands at a critical juncture. Although challenges persist, opportunities abound for those who can adapt, innovate and strategically position themselves in a rapidly evolving market. 

The outlook is positive, but success will require a combination of resilience, strategic partnerships and a keen eye on emerging trends. 

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