Drug discovery in 2023: Five key predictions


As 2022 draws to a close, life sciences market analysts attempt to correctly predict what the next 12 months might bring to the drug discovery sector. DDW’s Diana Spencer summarises the key trends likely to impact the market in 2023. 

1. There will be greater emphasis on diversity in clinical trials

A focus on the representation of diverse patient populations in clinical trials will be a very good thing for the industry, but could be challenging. Ariel Katz, CEO & co-founder of healthcare data company H1, predicts that we will see more drugs rejected by regulatory bodies because the company is not able to demonstrate accountability regarding diversity in its clinical trial recruitment. In February this year, Eli Lilly and Innovent’s lung cancer drug was rejected by the FDA on the basis that the data was solely based on Chinese patients, and H1 expects this scrutiny to continue. 

The company also predicts a shift to democratised and digitised healthcare data, a prioritisation of real-world data, and recognition of the role of ‘clinical inertia’ in the uptake of new treatments. 

2. AI will take on a wider role

In its predictions for investment trends in the biotechnology sector, TechCrunch argues that AI will have a more expansive role. While the development of clinical models using AI will continue, there will also be exploration of its ability to increase efficacy and efficiency in diagnostics, telemedicine, clinical trial design, patient engagement and clinician decision support. 

TechCrunch’s survey of biotech investors also reveals that the global financial situation, greater concern for climate and environmental issues and US sanctions on China will be the factors to have the greatest impact on the financial outlook for the sector over the next 12 months. 

3. Novel therapeutic platforms will drive innovation 

According to a survey of 150 biotech and biopharma leaders by clinical research company PPD, leveraging new technologies (including mRNA and drug discovery platforms) is one of the greatest opportunity areas in clinical trials for 2023. 

The company predicts that these new therapeutic platforms will reduce drug discovery time and drive the development pipeline in haematology/oncology, rare diseases and immunology/rheumatology. 

They also expect that decentralised, adaptive and digitalised clinical trials will provide the opportunity to collect data more widely and efficiently next year. 

4. Personalised and precision medicines will dominate pipelines

In its expected biotech trends for 2023, financial services company Nasdaq emphasises personalised medicine as a potential area for huge growth. 

This growth will be driven by a focus on cell and gene therapies, and the exploration of new technologies like bioprinting, tissue engineering and gene editing will make this possible. 

The company also expects orphan drugs to be very important in 2023 and to experience higher growth rates than non-orphan drugs, and for AI and big data to play a greater role in drug discovery. 

5. M&A activity will accelerate

Financial firm PwC predicts an active year for mergers and acquisitions (M&A), particularly for the US pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, as companies strive to address pipeline gaps and stay ahead of competitors. 

It expects that pharma and biotech M&A will continue to focus on oncology and immunology, but other areas such as central nervous system and cardiovascular diseases, as well as vaccines, will see increased interest. 

PwC’s outlook includes “structured deals, new and creative approaches to R&D funding and portfolio reassessments leading to divestitures”, with larger deals likely in the second half of the year. 

In summary, 2023 could be a very exciting year for life sciences. Data will be king, companies will have to be more accountable for representation in clinical trials and we will see continued development of cell and gene editing technologies and novel therapeutic platforms to make drugs more targeted and guarantee market success. 

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