Life Science in 2023 - Research and Development Insights


As the world continues to face numerous health challenges, the importance of the Life Scien...

Matt Nicholson

By Matt Nicholson

As the world continues to face numerous health challenges, the importance of the Life Science industry has only increased. The industry has been instrumental in developing ground-breaking treatments and cures for various diseases, and it continues to push boundaries in terms of innovation and discovery.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data have transformed research, allowing more accurate and efficient drug discovery processes. Additionally, the development of precision medicine, which uses patient-specific data to tailor treatments, has upended traditional approaches to healthcare and opened new avenues for personalised care.

The industry has seen a surge in the development of gene therapies and immunotherapies, which have shown promising results in treating previously untreatable diseases. Another area of innovation is the development of biosimilars, which are biological drugs like existing treatments but offered at a lower cost.

Despite the many advancements and innovations in the Life Science industry, some challenges must be addressed. One such challenge is the high cost of developing and bringing new drugs to market. The lengthy and expensive regulatory process can deter companies from investing in research and development, limiting the number of new treatments available to patients. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for increased collaboration and coordination between industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies to ensure the timely development and distribution of vaccines and treatments.


Current challenges faced by life sciences companies 

A continued lack of talent in a growing market – The life science industry is experiencing a shortage of skilled professionals despite its growth. As companies expand and aim to have a diverse range of products, the necessary skills and experience to develop them are not keeping up with the demand for talent. This is happening despite the increasing popularity of employee benefits such as flexible and remote work arrangements.

Increased costs – The Life Sciences industry has been facing a decline in its operational costs and profits due to the combined impact of high inflation and energy expenses. This trend has persisted even during the COVID-19 pandemic, where less than one-fourth of the organisations surveyed in the 2022 McKinsey Life Resiliences Survey felt adequately equipped to handle these challenges. As a result of reduced margins, companies are being more careful with their investments and emphasising preparation to tackle future obstacles in the post-pandemic economy.

 Source: McKinsey

Supply chain issues – The economic downturn has impacted all parts of the supply chain. There has been a rise in materials costs as certain countries have experienced shortages, and transport expenses increased due to the fuel crisis in 2022. Even though these shortages and costs have decreased in 2023, their ripple effects are still noticeable. On the consumer end of the supply chain, inflation has led to changes in spending habits. Many customers are now seeking more affordable and efficient means of obtaining products to reduce their expenses. This shift in consumer behaviour has resulted in lower revenue and sales for life science companies, which may need further cut costs.

ESG strategies are critical – The combined impact of public opinion on climate change and environmental protection, legal changes, and the need for cost-cutting has compelled businesses to adopt Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. An instance of this is the US Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of April 2021, which prohibits importing products made or partially made in China’s Uyghur region. A similar measure was enacted in the UK in 2022. Live science businesses must now be transparent and accountable for implementing their ESG strategies, with the associated costs being a crucial factor in their transformation efforts.


Investment in technology to better products more rapidly – In today’s world, the significance of technology in life sciences cannot be ignored. The life sciences industry has been dramatically influenced by the rapid production of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has created a standard for other companies to follow. As a result, businesses are compelled to invest in technology at every stage. The life sciences sector is being propelled forward by artificial intelligence and data technology advancements, which necessitate significant investment. Companies are seeking the most effective solutions to stay ahead of the competition as consumer needs rise.


The role of innovation in life sciences research and development

In the life sciences industry, organisations must possess the ability to innovate. Our knowledge of biology and the human environment constantly evolves as discoveries are made. It is necessary to refine and enhance the effectiveness of medicines while minimising their side effects. In addition, the development of drugs and therapies and the growth of the ageing population are becoming increasingly important. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of innovation, as teams worldwide collaborated to find a vaccine quickly. Without creation, this achievement would not have been possible. Moreover, innovation is essential for long-term competitiveness. In the next decade, major pharmaceutical companies will lose exclusive rights to 15 top-selling drugs, which could result in a potential revenue loss exceeding $100 billion.


Emerging technologies and innovations

Big data

Life sciences have always been heavily dependent on data, with huge amounts of large and complex data produced every minute by thousands of researchers across the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic generated vast amounts of data to develop a vaccine in record time, further highlighting the critical importance of big data in the life science industry.

In a survey by NewVantage Partners in 2022, 50% of life science companies reported increased investment in data, with all surveyed organisations claiming to be fully committed to further initiatives. As a result, the global life sciences analytics market is set to grow at a CAGR of 11.83% to $15.95bn by 2025.

There are many advantages to the big data revolution;

·        Faster research – One of the key problems data scientists face is the time-consuming process of gathering and analysing complex data. Big data supports researchers by pooling this data and studying trends, lowering the time to approve new drugs.

·        Using data trends to inform investment decisions – By collecting patient information, big data can be used to analyse the needs of a particular demographic, informing investment decisions on new research.

·        A better understanding of risk – With more data on previous trials and research, data scientists can run more iterations of risk assessment, enabling a more thorough evaluation in less time.

·        Significant improvements in clinical trial data – Data scientists spend less time gathering and understanding data and more time creating new analyses and exploring the data. These improvements allow for a quicker, more in-depth understanding of drug development and real-world patient research.



Big data goes hand in hand with A.I. – the ability to trawl vast amounts of data for trends and information to produce new analyses quickly. A.I. has taken a huge leap forward within the last year. The most well-known development recently is Microsoft and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, capable of answering complex queries with real-world data.

Technology is advancing quickly and is driving the life science industry. Data scientists can test theories and query data using complex requests, drawing insights from big data and producing accurate analytics for data scientists to draw recommendations on.

There are other advantages outside of research;

·        Clinical trials – A.I. can estimate sample size and plan the deployment of trials

·        Disease diagnosis – frontline medical staff can input symptoms and patient data, and A.I. can suggest possible diagnoses quickly based on data models

·        Logistics – A.I. can also be used to forecast demand for products and manage logistics accurately, reducing overheads and logistics costs

·        Increasing healthcare access – A.I. medical support and ‘telemedicine’ supports less trained medical workers in diagnosing and treating patients where the resource is unavailable. This is particularly helpful when there is a lack of trained professionals, resulting in limited healthcare access.


Richie Bavasso, Co-Founder and CEO of nQ Medical, recently said in a Forbes article on A.I.;

I’m excited by the advancement of synthetic data allowing my data science team to feed our machine learning (ML) models with data to simulate large populations of people with diseases. Synthetic test data allows us to reflect on ‘what if’ scenarios, making it an ideal way to test a hypothesis. It is a more accurate, scalable, and economically feasible replacement for real-world records to generate large training datasets and reduce restrictions with the use of sensitive data. 



Research in the industry is looking at diseases at a molecular level in real-time to develop new therapies and cures for conditions that have previously been difficult to treat.

Nanotechnology is being developed to generate new possibilities for delivering medication. Disease biomarkers are being improved through the help of nanoscale sensors that have more accuracy. Nano-bioengineering is aiding in the formation of new treatments for sickness with the use of artificial biomolecules or through tissue regeneration.

In the arena of infectious diseases, nanotechnology is yielding productive results, which will be used in treatments for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV. These disorders have a high mortality rate and have proven difficult to treat. Scientists are now concentrating on creating nano-sized vessels for new and existing remedies as a fresh approach to addressing the issues typically linked to treating these conditions.


Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is a new, advanced branch of medicine that attempts to use gene alteration to treat or cure various illnesses, including cancer, genetic disorders, and certain infectious diseases. In the United States, the first gene therapy was approved by the FDA in 2017, and since then, there have been more than 20 cell and gene therapies given the green light. 

The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine forecasts that five novel gene therapies for rare diseases should be available by 2023, such as those for sickle cell disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and haemophilia.

The development of these therapies has challenged life sciences organisations to consider changing their business models. They must consider how they will identify which people will be suitable for the treatments, acquire blood samples for the therapies, and negotiate with insurers for reimbursement. Additionally, they will have to develop a system for tracking the results of the treatments for outcome-based contracts. These questions, and many more relating to payment, customer experience, supply chain, and manufacturing, must be addressed.

The development and usage of precision health are driven in part by the rise of next-generation DNA sequencing (NGS). This technology is moving out of the lab and into healthcare, providing improved care and outcomes for a broader population. NGS offers large amounts of data, speed, and scalability, allowing for a more comprehensive range of applications than ever before. The Illumina NovaSeq X sequencer, released in 2022, is an example of a machine capable of sequencing 20,000 genomes in a year at $200 per genome. As the cost of sequencing genomes decreases, delivering personalised healthcare and gene therapy on a larger scale becomes easier.


The role of digital health in the life sciences industry

The days of handwritten medical notes are gone; today, almost all medical health records are kept electronically, accessible by health professionals and kept up-to-date. Records are complete, often more detailed than before, and supported by a scaled global infrastructure.

Digital health has grown exponentially in recent times. According to a recent survey by Accenture, 35% of individuals now access health services through virtual consultations versus 6% before the pandemic.

Smartphone apps have been the first step, with health-tracking apps connected to medical services and databases of self-help information to support individuals. Some of these apps, developed by healthcare organisations, offer online virtual consultation, again ensuring a central point of information gathering for organisations looking to gather valuable data to build products and market them correctly.

There are also emerging opportunities. Wearable technology, such as smartwatches, have been around for many years and have had basic functionality to track movement and heart rate. Other devices, such as heart monitors and continuous blood glucose monitoring technology, are also widely used. As this technology continues to advance, gathering day-to-day patient data. This technology can then advise those individuals on their health status, collect data for A.I. in apps to analyse, and suggest any health issues they have recorded to the wearer.

This technology is fundamental in bridging the gap between the most remote or under-supported locations, where healthcare support and advice may be less readily available. Regions where healthcare is difficult to provide in person, can be supported through digital technology, improving healthcare, slowing the spread of contagious viruses, and gathering even more global data to drive new research and development. 

How NES Fircroft is supporting candidates to the Life Science industry

NES Fircroft has supported the Life Science market for over 20 years, sourcing personnel for engineering, scientific and commercial roles. We recruit highly experienced professionals to the biotechnology, pharmaceuticaldiagnostics, and medical devices industries.

We can provide permanent and contract candidates to the Life Science industry across the Quality, Clinical, Regulatory/Compliance, and Engineering disciplines.

If you’re looking for skilled personnel, get in touch with our dedicated Life Science Recruitment teams to find out how we can support you.

Are you looking for a new job? Browse our Life Science vacancies today.