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How pharmaceutical industry digitization can help beat COVID-19

Adnan Kayyali

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How pharmaceutical industry digitization can help beat COVID-19.new (1)

The pandemic has hit countless industries in ways that few were prepared to handle, disrupting global production and supply chains with devastating results. Pharmaceutical companies are among the worst hit, at a time when the fast and efficient manufacturing and procurement of pharmaceutical drugs is essential. However, pharmaceutical industry digitization may just hold the answer.

Despite promising leads for potential vaccines and treatments in the works, drug makers would have to manufacture and distribute millions if not billions of doses worldwide – a looming challenge in itself.

The pandemic has exposed the need for more flexibility, resilience and efficiency in many industries, and technologies that characterize industry 4.0 such as automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are the surgeon’s tools for achieving these goals. There are numerous avenues and applications through which pharmaceutical industry digitization can take place that major industry producers like India and China, who together cover 80% of the world’s pharma-chemical production, can utilize. Research and development of pharmaceutical drugs can greatly benefit from digitization of their systems. Better data gathering, monitoring and automation can reduce costs and increase speed of production, as well as increase productivity, and enable improvement of product designs. By collecting and organizing data more efficiently, effective insights can be drawn more quickly and accurately to guide further research, and speed up the development process.

Pharmaceutical industry digitization will also most definitely improve productivity in factories and labs and make pharma products more cost-competitive and augment productivity and efficiency. The use of digital technology can mitigate human error and improve quality by up to 40% according to a report by McKinsey. In terms of the workforce, digital information systems combined with augmented and virtual reality can be used to train new employees.

The innovative use of industry 4.0 technologies in the pharmaceutical sector can present, not only a solution to the COVID-19 crisis, but can be adopted globally as more countries learn and adapt to present challenges.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in media and communication. Technology enthusiast and free-lance writer. Favorite hobby: 3D modeling.

MedTech

The impact of COVID-19 on transport

Mounir Jamil

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Impacts of COVID-19 on transport

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, public transport needs to adapt to a new normal and start adopting greener technologies that will render it resilient to future disasters, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The report Guidance Note on COVID-19 and Transport in Asia and the Pacific illustrates the impact of COVID-19 on transport, as lockdowns forced millions of people to begin working remotely, schools to shift to e-learning and customers to resort to online shopping and food delivery.

While notions of public transport have been previously perceived as mostly green, affordable, and efficient means of travel, initial trends in cities that have re-opened indicate that public transport is still considered relatively unsafe, and is not bouncing back as quickly as cycling, walking or private vehicles.

Further impact of COVID-19 on transport have manifested as drastic lockdown measures around the globe brought world economies to their knees. Satellite footage recorded data on how concentrations of CO2 and air pollutants fell drastically, bringing clear blue skies to some cities. However, as cities reopened, traffic levels have increased. If this trend continues on a wider scale, it could remove decades of effort that have been put into promoting sustainable development. As public transport reopens, confidence of passengers can be restored through health and safety measures like cleaning, tracking, face covering and thermal scanning

As some countries are starting to enter the recovery phase, further precautionary and preventive operating measures and advanced technology can be implemented to enable contactless process and ease an agile response. Demand management steps can ease crowd control in public transport and in airports. Government initiatives and financial aid are critical during this period to enable public transport to continue supporting the movement of passengers and goods in a sustainable way.

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MedTech

The latest on COVID-19 testing technologies

Mounir Jamil

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The latest on COVID-19 testing technologies

The NIH (National Institute of Health) is set to invest $248.7 million in new COVID-19 testing technologies to better address the current pandemic. NIH’s newly developed Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative has earned contracts to seven different biomedical diagnostic companies to support a wide range of new lab-based and point of care tests that could significantly increase the type, avaialibility and number of tests by millions per week starting as soon as September 2020. Currently, national demand is estimated to be millions more tests per day higher than the current levels, these COVID-19 testing technologies are expected to make a significant impact on expanding the nations testing capabilities.

The seven technologies use various formats and methods and can be performed in a variety of settings to meet different needs. Four of the mentioned COVID-19 testing technologies include innovations in lab-based testing technologies that include CRISPR, next generation sequencing, and integrated microfluidic chips that have a huge potential to increase testing capacity and throughput while reducing testing result times. The other three technologies utilize platforms to provide nucleic acid and viral antigen tests that can produce rapid results at the point of care. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been working with NIH and RADx external advisors to offer general advice on test validation and are also prioritizing the review of emergency use authorization (EUA) from tests made by the RADx,

NIH launched RADx on April 29, 2020, just days after receiving an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.5 billion from Congress to support innovative technologies to make millions of rapid COVID-19 tests per week available to Americans by the fall.

Several experts from academia, government, and industry including the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering’s (NIBIB) Point-of-Care Technology Research Network (POCTRN) are all contributing to the RADx process via evaluating applications, providing technical and clinical resources and by guiding project teams. NIH has selected approximately 100 of the best concepts to join in an intensive one-week “shark tank” technology evaluation process. 31 of these projects successfully made the cut and have moved to Phase 1, an intense four to six-week period of initial technology validation. The seven tests announced are the first to be selected for scale up, manufacturing, and delivery to marketplace via RADx.

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MedTech

COVID-19 and the impact on technology markets

Mounir Jamil

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As the current pandemic continues, COVID-19 and the impact on technology is becoming ever-more noticeable. The impact has already started with major brands such as Apple and Nissan reporting knock-on effects caused by production and supply chain dependency in China. Understanding when the outbreak can be brought under control will help determine the severity of market disruptions.

As for COVID-19 and the impact on technology markets, most major manufacturers depend on parts or production capabilities from China. However, China’s manufacturing capacity and workforce have been hit hard from the virus. As of February 20, China reported more than 75,000 people infected with COVID-19, with a majority of the workforce working remotely. Blue collar workers are starting to cautiously return to their manufacturing sites after being away for a while. The pandemic is placing tremendous pressure on the global supply chain, retail and service industries.

While some manufacturers and retailers are able to live off their stocks for a certain time, the scarcity of products will become an issue very soon. This is especially true for the tech industries even with manufacturing capacities in China starting to produce again. The question is whether consumers will be willing to postpone purchases of out-of-stock items or whether they will consider an alternative product that is available right away.

Even though some companies have already made plans to diversify their sourcing, the supply impact cannot be avoided in the short-term. Countries surrounding China have the potential to benefit economically from these production and supply chain moves, especially the ones with a strong manufacturing and tech footprint.

The mitigation and management of risk during disruptions like these on the tech market depend greatly on being able to spot the early changes in buying behavior. The following are important signs to pay attention to when it comes to navigating these turbulent times:

  • Are consumers avoiding or pushing off big value purchases?
  • Have competitors’ performance changed significantly?
  • What are the sectors that are hit the hardest by the drying supply chain?
  • What are the effects of postponing launches on key markets?
  • How has the split between online and offline shopping changed with most people being self-quarantined right now?
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