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The inescapable global coronavirus pandemic has overshadowed all aspects of life and business for most of this year. The subject has been even more dominant within the biopharma sector as companies scramble to kickstart drug and vaccine development while having to enact their own staff and clinical trial safeguards in parallel.

Looking back at last year’s Scrip Asia 100, I pointed to the challenges of picking out an over-arching theme in what is a highly diverse region. There is clearly no such difficulty this year, with the myriad impacts and responses to SARS-CoV-2 running through all aspects of the industry.

But even within that narrower frame, the diversity and depth of activity around the virus has been staggering. From multiple vaccine candidates being fast-tracked in China, via moves by India to repatriate manufacturing, to regulatory support in South Korea, the responses show how the biopharma industry is rising to the challenge. The hoped-for major successes are likely to do wonders for the perception of a sector that has not always been publicly popular.

Meanwhile, pharma companies like everyone else are having to learn to live in a new normal, that among other things has affected face-to-face detailing and educational events. This is catalysing the adoption of new approaches and technologies such as online meetings and education that could change the form of such interactions permanently. As one company in Japan put it, there will be no more “hanging around in hospital corridors”. 

But outside the coronavirus, there were still other aspects of pharma life that continued much as normal. Asian firms were involved in some major deals, there was progress (and some setbacks) in gene therapy and some key policy changes not linked to the virus. Notable among these was China’s move to offer patent linkage provisions to originators or patent holders in a new draft of its patent law This marked a significant turnaround from the intellectual property abuse long complained about by foreign multinationals, and a new awareness of the importance of protection, perhaps driven by China’s own push towards innovation.

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

Where will be this time next year? Possibly still not back where we were in 2019, but hopefully a step forward from 2020. 

Ian Haydock

Editor-In-Chief, Pharma Insights, APAC

Informa Pharma Intelligence