BLOG: Life Sciences in the Eye of the COVID-19 Storm

By Faye Baker, LLamasoft

While I regularly remind myself to be thankful for what I have, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in taking many things in life for granted. When my daughter came down with tonsillitis at the beginning of March, getting paracetamol to manage her pain and fever was one of those things, but due to COVID-19 panic buying and supply chain issues, the shelves were empty. As well as being a wake up call for me, this got me thinking about how life sciences companies are also experiencing a huge shock to their systems. Due to their role in providing essential drugs and equipment to treat infected patients and in the urgent quest for an effective vaccine, these companies are in the eye of the storm.

Although medical experts have long been warning that a serious pandemic was inevitable, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has taken us all by surprise. As we have rushed to keep pace with business changes, other more immediate and pressing demands have – perhaps understandably – kept us from preparing for this eventuality.

In the life sciences industry, the crisis has exposed the stark reality of the fragility of their supplier networks, risk management competence and challenges from unforeseen disruption to the resiliency of their supply chains.

From shortages of APIs and KSMs to the entry of non-traditional players into the health care space, our recent Industry Perspectives paper shines a light on how the pandemic is affecting pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, and provides recommendations for what they should be doing to mitigate the immediate impacts, along with mid and long term strategies to survive and thrive, detailing the key capabilities and technologies that will be required to transform their enterprises to succeed in today’s ‘never normal’ business environment.

From simulating the impact on manufacturing and logistics operations accounting for disruptions in different locations, timings and duration and evaluating product demand in various scenarios to prepare for smarter allocation of limited inventory, through artificial intelligence and machine learning for advanced predictive analytical capability to building the culture and competencies to drive transformative change, the paper offers valuable advice for organizations seeking to restore, adapt and evolve their operations.

For companies in a position to capitalize on bringing a treatment for coronavirus to the market, the regulatory approvals to get the drugs to the market can be fast tracked. Needless to say, these companies will need to be operating at peak capacity.  They will need the supply chain rigor and intelligence to understand the trade-offs of what such a fast ramp-up means to rest of their portfolio.

This brings further focus on why the life sciences industry must rapidly invest in enhancing their supply chain capabilities – not just for sake of their own businesses but, as socially responsible global citizens, to contribute to society’s fight against deadly diseases and outbreaks.

The good news is that phenomenal advancements on the technology front can easily and effectively support these capabilities. Those ‘digital enterprises’ that can harness these technologies in a thoughtful, methodical and deliberate way will emerge stronger from having used the crisis as a wake-up call for change.

Thankfully my daughter is none the worse for the lack of paracetamol and has made a full recovery, hopefully armed with a stronger, better immune system! In the same way, life sciences companies who can learn the lessons the coronavirus is teaching us all have an opportunity turn short term pain into long term gain.

Download our Industry Perspectives paper to read more about this topic.

Related Resources

Industry Perspective: COVID-19 – A Wake-Up Call for the Life Sciences Industry


Life Sciences Supply Chain Disruption Checklist


Webcast: A conversation with life sciences supply chain expert, Atul Tandon


INFOGRAPHIC: Supply Chain of a Vaccine

View Infographic

Visit our COVID-19 Response Center