The most visible shift in the biopharma sector is the unprecedented level of collaboration and partnerships catalyzed by the pandemic. While much of the world was isolating, the scientific and clinical communities were coming together. Developers and researchers around the globe mobilized to share data and expertise, driven by a common sense of urgency. There was an extraordinary level of collaboration among biopharma companies, academia, governments, data providers, regulators, and technology firms.

The threat of COVID-19—and the opportunities it presented—motivated industry participants to break down longstanding barriers to focus on the disease rather than on individual constituencies. The shift toward collective partnerships had been in the works for years but the pandemic accelerated the pace and nature of such collaborations, along with supportive capital investments.

As traditional pharmaceutical companies veered into biotech research arenas, they needed to tap into the scientific expertise of academia. Meanwhile, academia sought to leverage the fundraising and entrepreneurship power of established biopharma companies to bring their ideas to market. These once-siloed institutions began to pool their resources and expertise as well as share preliminary data. This helped accelerate the race toward treatments and vaccines.

These collaborations were not only synergetic but, in many cases, necessary. Collaboration between regulatory agencies and industry enabled shorter review timelines. Public-private partnerships spurred greater collaboration between research institutions and governments, which started to view healthcare as a component of their national defense and domestic infrastructure, further driving investment and incentives. Collaborations with Big Tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and others enabled the biopharma environment to leverage quantum computing and other technical capabilities that have become necessary to remain competitive. Looking ahead, collaboration across industry, regulatory agencies, government, and academia is expected to be the new norm.

As collaborations across stakeholder groups increased, biopharma companies started to more actively band together and synergize their capabilities. Where there was once cutthroat competition to discover, develop, and market medicines, former rivals started to partner and collaborate in ways not seen pre-COVID. Many global biopharma players started to acknowledge that the best innovation does not necessarily reside within their own walls. Strategic partnerships are now leveraged to create innovation, pair up drug development, build manufacturing capabilities, extend digital ecosystems, diversify therapeutic portfolios, and extend geographical market access.