COVID’s impact on us—the waves of infection and sickness, the variants, the economic upheaval, the treatments and vaccines—was summed up well by a bench scientist at a start-up biotech: "It was the worst of times but, really, the best of times too."

How could a pandemic be described in positive terms?

In fact, much like the medical advances made in wartime, COVID was an innovation catalyst.

Just how dramatically lessons learned from COVID will be a positive force for change in drug development, hospital care, and insurance plan design is the subject of a CBIA's May 10 Healthcare’s Future: The Post-COVID World conference.

Leaders in the biopharma, hospital and insurance sectors will discuss how they mobilized to understand the challenges presented by the pandemic, their achievements and stumbles in battling COVID, and how COVID has changed their business models. 

Accelerated Technology 

The biopharma panel will explain how, like the use of anesthesia in the Civil War, blood transfusion in World War I and antibiotics in World War II, COVID accelerated the development and use of several important technologies.  

Most notable among these technologies are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

It took COVID to bring mRNA vaccines out of the research lab and into full bore development.

Ideas about and insights into this technology had been simmering in research labs for decades.

There were small clinical trials using mRNA technology in cancer treatment, for rabies and to protect against Ebola.

It took COVID to bring mRNA vaccines out of the research lab and into full bore development.

Broad Implications

In a little over a year vaccines protective against COVID-19 became available for widespread distribution—a feat that normally would take 10-15 years.

Healthcare’s Future biopharma panel will describe how applicable—what an elegant solution—mRNA vaccines are to infectious disease generally.

mRNA technology simplifies, speeds, and lowers the cost of vaccine development.

In the case of COVID, some of the virus’ idiosyncratic spike protein genetic code—just enough to alert the human immune system to the pathogen and cause it to mount a defense without actually causing disease—is inserted into cells for the cells themselves to manufacture the spike protein.

mRNA technology simplifies, speeds, and lowers the cost of vaccine development.

It allows relatively easy modification of the piece of genetic code the vaccine inserts into cells and manufacture of the vaccine’s active ingredient by the human body, not a vast bricks and mortar biopharma manufacturing plant. 

New Research Designs

The way in which COVID mRNA vaccines were developed will inform biopharma research and development and manufacturing for decades.

COVID vaccines came to market so quickly in part because of the industry’s greater reliance on innovative research designs—for example, extensive use of early testing and incremental development to “fail early” and weed out compounds unlikely to be effective and/or safe.  

COVID vaccines were as much about manufacturing and distribution technology as basic science.

COVID vaccines came to market so quickly in part because of the industry’s greater reliance on innovative research designs.

New methods were developed to manufacture efficiently in enormous quantities and for delivery around the world.

Hospitals and insurers were as integral as biopharma to an effective response to CVOID.

Each sector reacted quickly to a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, adapted, and created new means for healthcare delivery.

These innovations will benefit disease treatment and management in the decades ahead and will, as well, be front and center at Healthcare’s Future: The Post-COVID World.


Paul Pescatello is the executive director of CBIA’s Bioscience Growth Council and chair of We Work for Health Connecticut. Follow him on Twitter @CTBio.

Filed Under: Bioscience, COVID-19, Healthcare, Manufacturing

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