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The global pandemic was a central feature of last year’s Scrip Asia 100 and here we are a year later, when some things have changed little while others are vastly different. The coronavirus has maintained its grip in one way or another on everyone’s lives and businesses despite our hopes.

Perceptions of the pharma industry as a global health savior, stemming largely from the unprecedented rapid development of highly effective novel vaccines, have been tempered by ongoing questions around the costs of innovation and equal global access to those shots. But it’s clear the sector is enjoying a moment, as evidenced by investor in-flows.

One difference is how we are now moving to a “post-COVID” era, where the focus has shifted away from short-term emergency responses to more fundamental changes in the way pharma conducts its business.

Within that frame, the APAC region is witnessing multiple mini revolutions, ranging from the way clinical trials are being conducted, through efforts to repatriate and fortify supply chains, to the accelerated emergence of regional innovation in new technologies, notably mRNA.

New virtual tools driving the adoption of decentralized trials, government support schemes to reduce over-reliance on China as a production hub, and the continued emergence of novel R&D from China and South Korea are just some of the prospects and consequences to have emerged, covered here in depth by our on-the-ground regional team.

Against this background, other aspects of normal pharma life necessarily continue, with Japanese reimbursement policies, for example, again stirring industry concern, in a recurring cycle that seems have been playing out in varying forms for decades.

Stepping away from the pandemic, one of the biggest stories in APAC is the accelerating shift towards original R&D, driven by a mix of in/out licensing deals – now often in global rather than regional scope – policy and regulatory reforms positive for the industry (particularly in China) and western big pharma’s unceasing appetite for novelty.

With increasing confidence in the value of their innovation and the development of in-house expertise and global abilities, expect to see more companies from China and South Korea in particular begin to forge their own paths in worldwide markets.

Looking ahead, uncertainties around the course of SARS-CoV-2 continue, as do those relating to which new sectors China may extend its trend towards regulatory tightening.

As always, we hope the data, insights and analysis in the Scrip Asia 100 will help you make sense of a large, diverse and complex part of the pharma world.

Ian Haydock
Editor-in-Chief, APAC, Tokyo