As we step into 2024, the biotechnology industry stands at a pivotal point, driven by rapid advancements in technology and shifting market dynamics. The past few years have been transformative, with groundbreaking innovations reshaping the landscape of healthcare, drug development, and beyond. Labiotech reached out to industry experts to get their thoughts on the trends that will shape the biotech field in 2024. From artificial intelligence (AI) to RNA technologies, here are some of the biotech trends to keep an eye out for in 2024.
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AI reshaping biotech: A key trend for 2024
AI has completely shifted the paradigm in the biotech industry. The past year has seen a gold rush in AI applications for the biopharma sector, for drug and protein discovery, or even treatment repurposing. Indeed, AI has had a few success stories in 2023 and will keep improving the field.
We talked to Thomas Hartman, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), who underlines that no industry was prepared for the meteoric rise of AI in the past year: “Now, as AI fatigue begins to set in and there’s less of a race to implement AI in various processes, companies will have more time to take a step back and properly evaluate their technology and resources.” As a result, companies will rely more on special interest groups and consultants with expertise in AI to provide guidance on best practices regarding generative AI implementation and the regulatory landscape.
According to Hanjo Kim, senior vice president (SVP) of Global Strategy and Head of Medicinal Chemistry at Standigm, the next research trends in AI will be toward obesity and longevity: “Many people believe obesity is the only remaining disease to conquer among metabolic diseases. As it is very complicated and mingled with other metabolic diseases, GLP-1 drugs will replace Lipitors. Furthermore, scientific findings about mitochondria are exciting as they show it is related to many diseases and complications. Aging relates to the energy expenditure of the human body and mitochondria could be a rich field for study since they are the energy factory of most cells.”
AI also provides the opportunity to save time in many different ways. In 2023, AI has progressed in drug discovery and has made treatment repurposing possible. Panna Sharma, CEO of Lantern Pharma, points to disease-specific AI discovery and development platforms as the next step. He compares this approach to using a laser on a specific target instead of a scattergun approach we are currently using. This hypothesis relies on efficient use of the immense amount of data biotech companies are sitting on: “The key is data readiness, or the transformation of this raw information into machine-learning friendly formats that can be harnessed by powerful AI algorithms. This readiness can allow AI to unlock the insight within the data, leading to groundbreaking clinical trials and accelerated drug development,” he said.
It is almost impossible to grasp the full potential of AI in the industry, but these few insights give us an idea of what biotech trends to look forward to in 2024: a more precise and diversified use of AI. It might be the year when companies take a step back to take a look at the AI technology and the data they have at their disposal to find the most efficient way to exploit these assets.
RNA technology sophistication
The field now encompasses various RNA-based therapies, including single and double-stranded RNA molecules like mRNAs, miRNAs, siRNAs, and antisense RNAs, each with specific mechanisms and applications in areas such as immunotherapy and disease treatment.
Venkata Shravan K. Indurthi, chief scientific officer (CSO) at Aldevron, is anticipating RNA technologies to become more complex and sophisticated and is looking forward to seeing more developments in treatments for diseases such as HIV, and various cancers.
“I predict that we will see new advancements in both the upstream and downstream manufacturing processes, as well as improvements in the design of the lipid nanoparticles often used to deliver mRNA.”
Indurthi also predicts the industry will see developments in gene-editing technologies, largely supported by growing partnerships: “Despite the many difficulties associated with gene editing technology, the industry has seen impressive developments in research and the recent approval of the first-ever gene editing medicine is something we are poised to build on. These developments are also being spurred by increasingly significant partnerships, like the recently announced Danaher Corporation-Innovative Genomics Institute Beacon for CRISPR Cures, which seeks to build and take to clinic gene editing medicines to treat rare and other diseases.”
The CRISPR sector is poised for growth
CRISPR has opened new doors for treating genetic disorders. It’s being used in clinical trials for diseases like sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, and Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, a form of congenital blindness. These trials have shown promising results, with some patients experiencing significant improvements in their conditions. In cancer treatment, CRISPR is being explored to genetically engineer immune cells to fight tumors more effectively. This involves using CRISPR to modify T-cells, potentially making them more potent at targeting cancer. No doubt this biotech trend will keep improving the industry in 2024.
The focus of CRISPR technology development is on creating specific delivery systems for different diseases. This includes using environment-responsive and ligand-recognizing nanoparticles to target diseased tissues more effectively. Additionally, the use of exosomes and cell membranes from immune cells or diseased organs can help in delivering gene-targeting drugs more efficiently and avoid immune clearance.
Eric Rhodes, CEO at ERS Genomics, believes the field will keep growing in 2024: “The CRISPR/Cas9 sector is poised to continue its remarkable growth trajectory through 2024, driven by the first approved clinical application in the U.K. for treating sickle-cell disease and transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia (TDT). Strengthening this prediction is the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Casgevy for TDT, which further underscores the technology’s potential to cure previously untreatable diseases.”
“As CRISPR is propelled into mainstream medicine, we expect to see a surge in the number of CRISPR-based clinical trials. It will also be interesting to see how the technology’s influence extends beyond medicine, as seen in agriculture, with innovations enhancing crop resilience and addressing food security challenges.”
The potential of CRISPR goes beyond healthcare and these technologies suggest a potential for cross-industry collaborations.
The potential of bioprinting and tissue engineering
In 2024, bioprinting and tissue engineering are expected to be significant trends in the bioengineering industry. These technologies are evolving rapidly, offering promising prospects for medical applications.
Bioprinting, like 3D printing, utilizes “bio-inks” composed of active human cells, sometimes combined with stabilizing materials, to create tissues. This technology is geared towards fabricating bioartificial organs, potentially alleviating the need for donor organs. While the practical application of bioprinted organs might still be a future goal, the technology is currently seen as highly beneficial for supporting burn victims. Researchers have developed handheld bioprinting tools designed for burn wards, which deposit layers of skin tissue directly on wounds, potentially replacing skin grafts and accelerating the healing process.
Advancements in bioprinting technology are also contributing to the engineering of larger and more complex tissue structures. Research teams are exploring new assembly methods that allow for the creation of engineered organs exceeding previous size limitations. The integration of bioprinting with technologies like stem cells and artificial intelligence is expected to yield more realistic organ substitutes and automated methods for generating these substitutes.
The tissue engineering market is also showing significant growth, with an estimated value expected to reach $8.9 billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.3%. The market is segmented into various products like scaffolds, tissue grafts, and others, with scaffolds holding the largest market share. This growth is primarily driven by the increasing need for regenerative medicines and continual technological advancements, including 3D printing and material innovation. North America currently holds the largest market share, but significant growth is expected in the Asia-Pacific region due to the increasing adoption of innovative technologies for treating chronic diseases.
These trends underscore the potential of bioprinting and tissue engineering in transforming healthcare biotech in 2024, offering novel solutions in regenerative medicine, and potentially revolutionizing the field of organ transplantation.
Advancements in stem cell technology: An incontestable biotech trend
One of the key trends is the increasing variety of stem cell types, such as mesenchymal stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, being used in research and development. These developments are accelerating the growth of the market and expanding the applications of stem cells in medicine. Innovations, particularly in areas like CRISPR-based gene editing, are enhancing the precision, scalability, and therapeutic potential of stem cells, which is a promising biotech trend in 2024 for the treatment of diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Additionally, the global market for stem cell technologies and therapies is projected to grow at an annual rate (CAGR) of 11.43% from 2024 to 2030, with a focus on regenerative medicine and drug discovery and development. The regenerative medicine segment, in particular, is capturing a larger market share due to increased approvals for clinical trials on stem cell therapies targeting various diseases.
The stem cell market is also characterized by intense competition, leading to competitive pricing for high-quality stem cell offerings. Mergers and acquisitions are contributing to the expansion of the stem cell market, indicating a vibrant and dynamic industry. Despite these advancements, the field faces challenges such as stringent guidelines that govern research and clinical practices, which may impose additional procedural costs and extend research and development timelines.
Furthermore, the use of stem cell technologies for purposes like drug testing, disease simulation, and the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, is also gaining traction. The potential of these technologies in such diverse applications highlights the significant role stem cells are expected to play in the future of biotech.
Overall, the stem cell technology sector in 2024 is poised for significant growth and innovation, promising to bring transformative solutions to healthcare and offer new solutions for the treatment of various diseases.
2024: A turning point for targeted protein degradation?
The targeted protein degradation (TPD) market is growing rapidly and is expected to continue its upward trajectory in 2024 making it a biotech trend to follow. This growth is driven by the increasing adoption of advanced technology in therapeutic methods, rising usage of technology for epichaperome inhibitors, and a growing demand for protein degradation strategies in drug discovery. The market is also propelled by the growing need for immunoassays in diagnosing microorganism-based infections and an increasing awareness of the benefits of protein degradation.
Neil Torbett, CEO of PhoreMost believes 2024 will be transformative for the TPD space. Following a substantial increase in disclosed bivalent degrader drugs and clinical trials in 2023, he expects to see increased interest from investors and pharma this year as advanced Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras (PROTACs) enter phase 3 clinical trials. “Molecular glues are an exciting new approach to degrader therapeutics, offering improved pharmacological properties in new therapeutic areas. The rational design of molecular glues has historically proved challenging, however, we anticipate breakthroughs in this space in 2024,” he said.
North America is a leading region in the TPD market, due to a high number of research and development activities. The market is also expanding in the Asia-Pacific region, attributed to increasing government initiatives, rising medical research, and a growing demand for quality healthcare.
Major players in the TPD market include Eli Lilly and Company, Gilead Sciences, and Merck, among others. This dynamic market is characterized by innovations in technology and a broad range of applications, positioning it as a key area of focus in the biotech industry in 2024 and beyond.
M&A activity will keep going strong in 2024
Experts in the field believe that the biotech industry is poised for recovery in 2024, and one reason for that would be a favorable climate for M&A activity. A PwC report predicts the M&A deal totals could range from $225 billion to $275 billion. M&A will be among the trends that will influence the biotech market in 2024.
According to Joseph Tucker, CEO of Enveric Biosciences, “the biotech sector has just gone through a sustained negative market, causing numerous smaller companies to struggle with raising sufficient capital to fund development programs and also putting many publicly-traded companies at risk of delisting.”
But what will be the consequences of these difficulties for smaller companies in the biotech industry as a whole? “In the first half of 2024, we suspect many small biotech companies may end up being delisted or become shells into which other companies reverse merge. We also anticipate a flurry of M&A activity, especially with big pharma companies acquiring some larger biotechs, and there may also be a flurry of partnering activity between smaller biotechs and either larger biotechs or pharma companies,” said Tucker.
David Schilansky, CEO and Co-founder of Home Biosciences also believes M&A activity will be intense in 2024 but, in his opinion, it will also be a year when substantial capital will be raised: “Investors have money that needs to be put to work and will fear losing out on the ongoing M&A wave. If you look at 2021-2023 transactions, the companies that were acquired had already demonstrated good data or products. But now some pharma are starting again to buy companies with data in front of them and take on a bit more risk in dealmaking to pick up the highest quality opportunities at affordable prices.”
M&A is not the only area of the market that may see opportunities in 2024. John Montana, CEO at Calluna Pharma said companies on the brink of reaching clinical Proof-of-Concept within their current funding round might be good candidates for IPO, assuming the market is favorable. “Additionally, strategic alignment with diseases of high pharma interest opens doors for licensing opportunities providing access to non-dilutive funding and potential acquisition,” Montana added.
2024, a strategic year for the biotech industry
As we look toward 2024, the biotech industry’s landscape is undeniably vibrant and brimming with potential. The trends we’ve explored paint a future where innovation is a tangible reality driving the sector forward. The resurgence of M&A activities, the profound impact of AI, and the burgeoning advances in RNA technology, CRISPR, bioprinting, tissue engineering, stem cell research, and targeted protein degradation, all represent significant strides in the industry.
However, this journey is not without its challenges. The biotech industry must navigate complex regulatory environments, ethical considerations, and the need for sustainable and equitable access to these breakthrough technologies. The collaborations between smaller biotechs and larger pharmaceutical companies, the ethical deployment of AI in healthcare, and the responsible application of CRISPR technology, all require a balanced approach that considers the long-term implications of these advancements.
2024 stands as a pivotal year that could potentially mark a turning point in the biotech industry. With the right blend of innovation, collaboration, and regulatory oversight, the industry is well-positioned to harness these emerging trends and transform the landscape of healthcare and therapeutic interventions. The future of biotech is not just about technological advancements, but also about how these technologies are integrated responsibly and ethically into our healthcare systems to create a healthier, more sustainable world. These biotech trends will make 2024 an interesting year.