Growth in Biotechnology amid the pandemic

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A biotech webinar titled Innovation in Biotechnology amidst Covid-19 by Franklin Templeton was held to share insights, overviews, and the impact on the sector. Additionally, the future of biotechnology, and areas of innovation in the sector, as well as Covid-19 developments in the therapeutics landscape were discussed.

The hosts of the event were Evan McCulloch, SVP, Director of Equity Research and Portfolio Manager, Franklin Equity Group, and Wendy Lam, Research Analyst and Portfolio Manager, Franklin Equity Group,

The webinar showcased the growth of Biotech sales which outpaced other sectors on a 10-year sales compound annual growth rate basis.

Furthermore, there is a significant increase in Research & Development spending which has more than tripled in the past 10 years and the sales-per-share, which helps to cover the increased costs has also increased more than three times.

Despite the delays in clinical trial timelines, regulatory approvals, softer drug sales and new drug launches along with the slowdown in merger and acquisition activity, Franklin Templeton remains positive on the sector, as fundamentals remain intact, and global megatrends are unchanged.

Advancements in sectors such as Oncology, Novel Drug Modalities, and Gene Therapy has seen an explosion of new drugs discovery platforms and technologies in some of the most sought-after areas.

Among the great innovations are Immuno-Oncology (IO) therapies that aim to activate the body’s natural immune response to recognize and destroy cancer cells, and Gene Therapy, that involves the viral delivery of new genetic material into a patient’s cells to correct a missing or defective disease-causing gene in the body.

The webinar further stated that people are living longer due to advances in medical technology. An older population is likely to require significantly more healthcare products and services, including pharmaceutical drugs.

According to the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects, a significant portion of the world population will be over 65 years of age by 2030.

“In order to end the pandemic, we cannot just focus on drugs to treat the infection. We still need a vaccine to prevent future infections and help generate herd immunity” the hosts addressed.

Currently, there are over 180 vaccine candidates in various stages of development; most are early and still in pre-clinical development. Nevertheless, initial Phase 1 or 2 results from several vaccines have shown promising immunogenicity, which, they hope, will translate to protection from infection in Phase 3 studies.

“Having drugs to treat the infection and its symptoms will help us manage patients more effectively and possibly reduce mortality, but in order to end the pandemic, we still need an effective and safe vaccine to prevent future infections.

We need to be strategic in our approach to vaccine development and must test multiple vaccine technologies simultaneously while investing in manufacturing/scale-up now. Global coordination will be necessary to expedite drug and vaccine development and to ensure broad access to treatment” the hosts concluded.

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