Drug development is a lengthy, complex, and costly process with high uncertainty of successful clinical approval. Unknown pathologies, lack of patient stratification, and inaccurate models create additional challenges in this process. To overcome them, the pharmaceutical industry is adopting the latest technologies while ensuring efficiency and regulatory requirements. In this article, we provide an overview of top global drug development trends ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and supercomputing to 3D bioprinting and synthetic engineering. Read more to explore the top tech-driven trends transforming the drug development sector.
Innovation Map outlines the Top 9 Drug Development Trends & 18 Promising Startups
For this in-depth research on the Top Drug Development Trends & Startups, we analyzed a sample of 2 245 global startups and scaleups. The result of this research is data-driven innovation intelligence that improves strategic decision-making by giving you an overview of emerging technologies & startups in the drug development industry. These insights are derived by working with our Big Data & Artificial Intelligence-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering 2 500 000+ startups & scaleups globally. As the world’s largest resource for data on emerging companies, the SaaS platform enables you to identify relevant startups, emerging technologies & future industry trends quickly & exhaustively.
In the Innovation Map below, you get an overview of the Top 9 Drug Development Trends & Innovations that impact pharma companies worldwide. Moreover, the Drug Development Innovation Map reveals 18 hand-picked startups, all working on emerging technologies that advance their field.
Top 9 Drug Development Trends
- AI & Data Analytics
- Patient-centric Trials
- Assay Development
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Synthetic Biology
- Virtual Trials
- High-performance Computing
- 3D Cell Culture
Tree Map reveals the Impact of the Top 9 Drug Development Trends
Based on the Drug Development Innovation Map, the Treemap below illustrates the impact of the Top 9 Drug Development Trends in 2022. AI, big data, and high-performance computing (HPC) exponentially accelerate drug discovery. The industry also focuses on novel ways to enhance medication properties such as assay development, 3D cell culture, and synthetic biology. Such solutions deliver better informed scientific insights to reduce drug suspension rates. Further, advanced manufacturing automates operational processes to predict losses and improve product development. The next emerging trends are patient-centric and virtual trials, which upgrade patients’ experience and involve them directly in drug design. Lastly, cybersecurity measures enable drug manufacturers to protect vulnerable and patient-sensitive data, thus building trust among multiple stakeholders.
Global Startup Heat Map covers 2 245 Drug Development Startups & Scaleups
The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the global distribution of the 2 245 exemplary startups & scaleups that we analyzed for this research. Created through the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, the Heat Map reveals that the US has the highest density of startup activity in the field.
Below, you get to meet 18 out of these 2 245 promising startups & scaleups as well as the solutions they develop. These 18 startups are hand-picked based on criteria such as founding year, location, funding raised, and more. Depending on your specific needs, your top picks might look entirely different.
Top 9 Drug Development Trends for 2022
1. AI & Data Analytics
Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in data digitalization in the pharmaceutical sector. Startups are developing increasingly better tools to acquire, scrutinize, and apply large volumes of data towards bottlenecks in drug development. This drives the use of AI to automate data processing to solve complex clinical problems. The application of AI aids drug discovery, repurposing, side effects prediction, and clinical trials. It also assists in decision-making to determine the right therapy for patients, including personalized medicines. Overall, data-driven intelligent technologies make drug development procedures cost-effective, faster, and more productive.
Protai builds an AI-driven Drug Discovery Platform
Israeli startup Protai builds an AI-driven drug discovery platform. The startup maintains a proteomic database with more than 50 000 clinical samples. It identifies patterns of diseases and simulates biological processes at the protein level. By observing the cellular function of diseases, its machine learning algorithms recognize the best-matching drug candidates for the undruggable proteome.
Netabolics offers Predictive Biosimulation
Italian startup Netabolics digitizes human cells to predict the biological effects of new drugs. The startup’s predictive biosimulation technology connects AI and digital twins to mimic human erythrocytes and test drugs on simulated models. It uses machine learning to conduct in silico trials on virtual patients, thereby avoiding negative consequences on real humans and animals. Additionally, the platform leverages cloud computing to accelerate drug toxicity analysis. This way, Netabolics enables fast and cost-effective clinical trials without human involvement.
2. Patient-centric Trials
Digital health technologies provide an opportunity to transform traditional clinical trials with patient-centric models. Digital devices and wearables collect physiological and behavioral data of patients in their natural environment. Access to real-world data (RWD) provides a comprehensive view of drug safety and efficiency. For example, clinical teams track the drug dosing history to improve medication adherence. Besides, the human-centric approach reduces the patient burden, provides personalized care, and enables accurate data collection. Consequently, increased patient engagement improves research quality and the production of lifesaving cures.
Cellbox Labs creates Gut-on-chip
Latvian startup Cellbox Labs makes a gut-on-chip testing solution for personalized medicine. The startup replicates human organs and runs experiments on chips controlled by biosensors. Its plug-and-play device also incorporates AI to model the pathophysiological behavior of tissues without user input. Moreover, this technology enables patient-centric trials by feeding AI algorithms with personal health data like microflora samples. By doing this, Cellbox Labs offers ethical and safe alternatives for clinical trials to develop personalized medicines.
FITFILE delivers Real-world Data
UK-based startup FITIFILE provides real-world data to enable data-driven clinical research. The startup’s patent-pending data management platform, FITConnect, collects RWD anonymously and irreversibly. Further, it generates patient-level evidence regarding the usage, potential benefits, or risks of a medical product. Researchers design strategic and more informed clinical trials using these data. This way, FITFILE unifies large-scale data to better understand population needs for targeted drug development.
3. Assay Development
Cell-based and in-vitro assays are cornerstones of successful drug discovery and development. Poor assay choices lead to irrelevant, variable, or misleading results that translate into delays and expensive program failures. Therefore, startups put more emphasis on assay technologies to improve productivity and reduce attrition rates. Recent innovations range from modified phenotypic assays and new screening models to label-free technologies and predictive toxicity testings. Further, new drug strategies integrate data from various sources to gain more insights into therapeutic mechanisms. Advances in assay development are hence enabling effective medicine production with minimal experiments.
Lino Biotech develops Label-free Assay Sensors
Swiss startup Lino Biotech makes label-free assay sensors to measure molecular interactions in living cells. The startup’s patented technology uses focal molography that eliminates environmental disturbance and temperature changes. Its biosensors visualize protein binding in real-time to identify drug candidates. As a result, Lino Biotech brings a simplified and noise-resistant method for an assay design, reducing production costs.
Foresee Biosystems designs Cardiotoxicity Assays
Italian startup Foresee Biosystems offers cardiotoxicity assays to assess the adverse outcomes of drugs on patients’ hearts. To reduce late-stage drug withdrawals, it is necessary to detect cardiac toxicity in the early stages. The startup’s patented laser technology identifies risks during preclinical trials. It scans and measures the intracellular electrical activity of human cardiac cells in vitro. This low invasive assay reveals hidden patterns of potentially dangerous drugs over a short time.
4. Advanced Manufacturing
Pharmaceutical companies are looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and productivity during the manufacturing process. To achieve this, they are integrating robotics, immersive technologies, the internet of things (IoT), and more. While mixed reality (MR) solutions enhance staff training, robots automate manual tasks and shorten the cycle time. They also help to meet clean room requirements and minimize space at plants. Moreover, new production processes enable rethinking drug shapes and forms to improve their pharmacological properties. This way, advanced drug manufacturing technologies deliver products faster, reduce their environmental footprints, and provide consistent quality.
NovoArc develops Biological Coating
Austrian startup NovoArc offers a biological coating to replace injections in drug delivery. Currently, active ingredients are generally injected due to their instability or poor absorption via other means. The startup’s manufacturing technology encapsulates drugs in stable lipids. For the encapsulation process, it uses thin-film hydration, extrusion, and microfluidics. This way, NovoArc’s biological coating protects drugs from degradation and increases bioavailability.
Pharmabotix offers Robotic Automation
Swiss startup Phamabotix provides robotic automation solutions for drug manufacturers. The startup’s various robotic systems ensure safe and fast medicine production from handling containers and filling liquids to packaging and logistics. The aseptic robotic systems also encompass intelligent flexible gripping and feature a sterile and compact design to ensure clean processing. By automating pharmaceutical manufacturing, Pharmabotix makes drug development efficient and low-maintaining.
5. Synthetic Biology
Advances in synthetic biology are significantly reorienting the field of drug development. Genetic manipulations provide accurate models to screen drug targets before entering clinical trials. Gene editing and molecular biology allow researchers to better understand complex interactions between genes and proteins. Additionally, startups create biological devices to observe the cellular response to new drugs without human testing. They apply synthetic biology to also synthesize large protein libraries in parallel, decreasing drug development time.
Helico creates Plant-based Biosimilars
New Zealand-based startup Helico delivers plant-based biosimilars to produce useful medicines. The startup’s AI-based computational platform uses plant physiology to produce therapeutic molecules. It features mutational screening algorithms that select the most fitting method to produce proteins, antibodies, and enzymes within plants. Helico’s biopharming approach turns plants into factories, thus accelerating the production of plant-based therapeutics.
Mosaic develops Genomics-guided Drugs
UK-based startup Mosaic makes genomics-guided drugs for cancer treatment. The startup’s gene editing technology overcomes . Mosaic’s computational genomics platform, PRIME, features experimental CRISPR tumor models and machine learning algorithms. Its AI-driven approach mines large datasets to identify different types of vulnerabilities in cancer molecules. The platform also uses synthetic-lethal screens in 3D organoid cultures to visualize and target cancerous cells. This allows cancer drug manufacturers to overcome challenges related to cancer genetic instability that often cause failures in medication approval and create a more precise cure.
6. Virtual Trials
Due to COVID-19, there has been a significant demand for virtual clinical trials. The main challenges include slow patient recruitment, lack of diversity, and compliance with regulations and rules. To overcome them, tech-driven solutions incorporate sensors, wearables, chips, mobile apps, and telemedicine to monitor patients remotely. Additionally, mobile communication allows larger outreach to underserved populations. Since users participate in more comfortable environments, virtualization facilitates a more thorough and meaningful understanding of patient reactions. This way, remote monitoring reduces time and costs of clinical trials while increasing efficiency.
Lenus Health enables Virtual Clinical Trials
UK-based platform Lenus Health offers virtual clinical trials using connected devices and data exchange platforms. For remote purposes, health professionals equip participants with devices and sensors to automatically collect health data. The wearables send patient data to an interoperable dashboard for further monitoring by clinicians. Besides, patients and clinical teams communicate remotely via an encrypted service app. As a result, Lenus ensures remote testing of clinical drugs to improve patient care.
Myelin-H provides a Wearable Monitoring System
Luxembourg-based startup Myelin-H provides a wearable monitoring system for remote clinical trials. The startup’s technology combines wearable sensors, mobile apps, brain-computer interface software, and a clinical dashboard. The wireless brain headset and microscopic saliva imaging system capture biosignals. Then, the companion app, BrainMirror, uses machine learning to decode brain activity into medical reports. This advances clinical trials by remotely monitoring the drug’s effectiveness for neurological diseases.
7. High-Performance Computing
The integration of big data and machine learning in the pharma industry requires high-speed data processing. To achieve this, startups are fusing HPC based on powerful supercomputers and quantum mechanics. These technologies support the necessary speed and performance rates to optimize each step of drug development. While supercomputers exponentially speed up complex scientific calculations, quantum-based computing accurately predicts molecular properties. They also empower hypotheses validation, patient trial modeling, drug recommendations, and logistics. This way, HPC create significant efficiencies in the development of new product formulations.
Ceremorphic advances Supercomputer-based Drug Discovery
US-based startup Ceremorphic leverages AI-empowered supercomputer-based drug discovery. The startup uses a low-energy processor with access to a 5-nanometer microchip. This node is highly scalable and delivers improvements in performance, efficiency, and security. The startup’s patented technology designs a multi-thread geometry-based architecture necessary for heavy computation tasks. By doing this, Ceremorphic trains AI models in a deterministic and cost-effective way, hence facilitating the research of novel drugs.
Qubit Pharmaceuticals enables Quantum Computing-enabled Drug Development
French startup Qubit Pharmaceuticals offers quantum computing-enabled drug development. The startup’s technology, Atlas, uses AI, molecular dynamics, and quantum effects to perform precise calculations. The hybrid quantum-based HPC platform converts molecular structures into graphs for evaluation. For instance, this includes atoms interaction, molecule selection, and drug binding prediction. Qubit Pharmaceuticals thus resolves challenges such as the quality of predictions, interpretability, and speed of simulations.
8. 3D Cell Culture
Unlike traditional 2D methods, 3D cell culturing enables researchers to perform more advanced experiments. Pharma manufacturers apply 3D cultures for solutions ranging from target identification and validation to candidate selection and assay development. Since 3D cell models closely mimic the cell-to-cell interactions, they provide more physiologically relevant information than 2D. They also show a higher degree of morphological and functional differentiation. Further, 3D cell culture in combination with bioprinting enable scientists to reproduce customized human-like tissues with high resolution. This allows them to create more realistic biochemical microenvironments and make informed decisions on drug screening strategies.
Lucero scales a 3D-cell Culture Platform
Swedish startup Lucero develops a 3D-cell culture platform to advance decision-making processes in drug development. The startup’s technology combines microbiology, laser optics, microfluidics, and machine intelligence to generate patient-specific data. In comparison to traditional methods, 3D-cell culture maximizes the number of simulations and shows a higher degree of cell interactions. This is how Lucero enables parallel screening of numerous donors to improve precision medicine.
VoxCell BioInnovation makes 3D-printed Tissue Models
Canadian startup VoxCell BioInnovation creates 3D-printed tissue models for the drug development industry. Using universal bioinks and 3D bioprinting, the startup mimics soft tissue types and constructs them layer-by-layer with high resolution. Further, its software generates human-like tissues models for in vitro screening. This enables reliable prediction of drug toxicology before clinical trials and early identification of unsuccessful candidates.
As the drug development industry contains sensitive data, cybersecurity measures are playing an increasingly critical role. Besides, drug counterfeiters exploit supply chain complications such as changes in drug ownership or lack of distributer visibility. To overcome this, startups are developing novel cryptographic solutions including blockchain-based mechanisms. The proposed systems enable users to track the drugs across each step from their manufacturing to delivery endpoints. Additionally, blockchain has a built-in identity architecture to store patients’ information securely. This ensures that only trusted parties have access to the database to avoid falsified drugs. Thus, these tech-driven solutions offer robust, cost-effective, and comprehensive cybersecurity strategies.
CipherMode provides Secure Multiparty Computation
US-based startup CipherMode develops cryptographic software to ensure secure multiparty computation. Since drug discovery requires multiple parties to share data, it is necessary to maintain the confidentiality of proprietary information. CipherMode’s platform, SecureAI, analyses information without decryption during the entire data lifecycle. It encodes data and integrates AI frameworks to keep data private.
BioVeras builds a Blockchain-based Clinical Platform
BioVeras is a US-based startup that develops Life Science Ledger, a blockchain-based clinical platform. It assists in remote health monitoring, diagnosis, and clinical trial management while ensuring data integrity and traceability. The platform immutably captures and processes informed patient consent for study participation. Further, its decentralized database tracks and stores data in the form of transactions for interested stakeholders. Through this, BioVeras brings transparency to collaboration between patients and healthcare providers.
Discover all Drug Development Trends, Technologies & Startups
The drug development industry is extensively integrating digital solutions, biotechnological novelties, and advanced manufacturing. These trends enable pharmaceutical companies to effectively produce drugs in safe, patient-oriented, and cost-effective ways. Future innovations will make personalized treatments for various diseases even more accessible. For instance, medical nanoparticles and nanorobots show the potential to cure fatal diseases. Additionally, emerging startups are developing alternative methods to shift drug development from treatment to prevention.
The Drug Development Trends & Startups outlined in this report only scratch the surface of trends that we identified during our data-driven innovation and startup scouting process. Among others, virtualization, phenotyping, and drug repositioning will transform the sector as we know it today. Identifying new opportunities and emerging technologies to implement into your business goes a long way in gaining a competitive advantage. Get in touch to easily and exhaustively scout startups, technologies & trends that matter to you!