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Top five trends for the pharmaceutical industry in 2021

Updated: Jan 26

The development of the coronavirus vaccine has dominated the pharmaceutical industry over the past year

With the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being the first drug rolled out across the UK to protect against the virus, we expect to see further advancements in 2021. Over 200 vaccines are in development for COVID-19 globally, with 47 in clinical development and 10 in Phase III clinical trials. More trials will begin to move into Phases II and III of clinical trials with the goal to improve the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines and therapies.

1. Coronavirus vaccine development

We predict that coronavirus vaccines and therapies will encourage more collaboration between organisations. Organisations will share research and development findings to tackle the worldwide pandemic as effectively and efficiently as possible. Joint ventures and alliances between organisations will create more value and opportunities for coronavirus response and preparation. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first effective roll-out we have seen, and as other COVID-19 vaccines start filtering out, there will be a number of challenges to face. Organisations must be able to keep up with drug supply to meet global demand. The cold storage of the drug must be upheld in distribution. There is a concern with the affordability and financial responsibility for some countries to supply the entire population with the correct dosage.

2. Digital transformation of the industry

The digital transformation of the industry is something that continues year on year, with technological innovations set to impact drug development and the supply chain. We expect companies to make investments in digital to help them gather data and insights to execute business strategies. Digital insights will help organisations improve patient access and support, provide value for sponsors, shorten the length of the production process, and distribute products to market more efficiently. There is an opportunity for machine learning and artificial intelligence in the supply chain to shorten the production cycle. This advanced technology is helping manufacturers reduce downtime and product waste, as well as improving logistics in terms of safe product storage and distribution. This will make costs and processes more efficient and streamlined, helping to get drugs to market sooner and improve patient outcomes. While many companies have adopted some technology to improve business strategies, there is much progress to be made in the industry. Through 2021 we expect to see more organisations experimenting with technology and data to improve efficiency and streamline the supply chain. At CSI all our offerings are based on detailed data analysis and evaluation.

3. Growth in biosimilar adoption

The popularity of biosimilars has been growing since 2018 and market share has increased significantly. A biosimilar is a biological medicine that is highly similar and clinically equivalent to existing biological medicine. Biosimilars are being adopted now more than ever, particularly due to the fall in prices which makes these medicines more affordable. For countries in which patients have to pay for their own healthcare, such as America, many are facing difficulties affording the originator biological medication. Some patients are skipping doses to make the medication last longer, and some are failing to fill in prescriptions for new medication. This results in poor outcomes for patients and impacts data that can improve drug development and patient support. To improve patient outcomes, it is important that biosimilar medicines reach the market around the world to make medication more affordable and accessible. According to leading manufacturers, CSI has handled more biosimilar products for oncology indications for clinical trial use, than any other company in Europe.

4. Investment in innovative breakthrough therapies

The pharmaceutical industry is experiencing pressures on pricing, the cost of drug development and changing business models. To combat that, it is expected that organisations will look to invest in innovative breakthrough therapies to diversify their portfolios. It is predicted that there will be a focus on gene therapies and oncology. We know that oncology is at the forefront of research in clinical trials. Gene and cell therapies could make strong advancements in 2021 providing a new approach to treating diseases. Cancer treatments have been advancing at an accelerated pace, offering clinical benefit and increased specificity through engineered cell or gene therapies. Over 700 hundred cancer drugs are in late-stage development, and with over one-third of trials using biomarkers to stratify patients, there will be more personalised and effective cancer treatments in the future. At CSI we have extensive experience with biologics and have worked with some of the most innovative products as soon as they receive market authorisation.

5. Increasing global market presence

Global market presence is expected to be a growth point for organisations in 2021. As Japan is one of the most rapidly growing pharmaceutical markets in the world, organisations are turning their attention to the country. The research, development, and manufacturing capabilities that are growing in Japan and developing are expected to compete with some of the most established markets, such as the US. CSI’s global reach and expertise in clinical trials and comparator sourcing can ensure your organisation has an effective 2021. We have well-established relationships with all leading manufacturers and can provide cost-efficient and timely solutions and design a robust supply chain to advance your trial. Contact us to discuss how we can advance your clinical trials in 2021.


The pharmaceutical industry has faced many challenges and changes in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns caused organisations to reconsider their business approach to ensure supply shortages and limitations were overcome. The drug advancements and collaboration between organisations this year has encouraged companies to adopt innovative methods to progress in a virtual manner. Here are our top five predictions for the pharmaceutical industry in 2021.


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