COVID-19 has created a level playing field for innovators to get their products to market

Ashutosh Mayank and Prajakt Raut, Managing Partners at Supply Chain Labs, Lumis Partners share their insights on new opportunities that will open up for start-ups in the life sciences supply chain sector in the post-pandemic era, in an interview with Lakshmipriya Nair  

The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that we need to reboot healthcare to beef up our defence against the current and emerging diseases. What kind of new opportunities will it open up for start-ups in the life sciences supply chain sector? Which will be the major areas to focus on?

Pharma and medical equipment supply chain, warehousing and logistics was always a specialised field with specific requirements, including regulatory compliances. However, the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines have the seriousness and complexities of a different level – think of it as the complexity and scale of holding elections across the country. Given that multiple doses of the vaccine are required adds to the additional trace & track of not just the products but the persons receiving it as well. 


Current infrastructure and systems were not designed for these circumstances. As a result, technology will play a major role in quickly filling in the gaps in what is required to respond to Covid. These systems need to be deployed quickly, and they need to be nimble for quick adjustments depending on market circumstances. Add to that, the demand for small-volume, personalised medicines is driving operations to multiproduct facilities that require meticulous tracking. These dynamics open up significant opportunities for start-ups. 


At Supply Chain Labs, our start-ups like StaTwig, Koinearth, Aerchain, Invento, etc. have innovative solutions that can help the pharma and biomedical devices companies manage the complexities of the current circumstances with efficiency. 


What are the challenges in this sector that prevent large scale investments? How can investments in this arena be de-risked to a certain extent? What will be the role of both, government and the private stakeholders in doing so?  

In 2021, drug pricing, health care expenditures, and market accessibility will likely continue to be the main concerns. Medtech companies will continue to face competition from consumer technology companies and new care models. The commercialisation of gene and cell therapies comes at a time of wider drug price scrutiny from policymakers. Patient-centred platforms and consumer health apps are now collecting more data, underlining the express data privacy concerns. Other challenges include risk due to patent expiration, increased clinical development spend and lower investments in R&D as a proportion of sales.


Many more corporations are looking at innovation outsourcing to startups in the field of drug discovery; virtual lab assistance; imaging data for scans and diagnostics to gather that competitive advantage. 


At Supply Chain Labs we help corporates discover solutions by startups. Startups and corporates working together is mutually beneficial and helps the entire eco-system. The government is already doing its bit in creating an enabling environment, and creating possibilities for startups to participate in government programs and procurement. 


Post-COVID-19, is it likely that life sciences will lead the start-up success stories coming from India? If yes, what will be the drivers of this trend?

COVID-19 has created a level playing field for innovators to get their products to market. Large pharma companies are already engaging with start-ups to get their products quicker to market. Start-ups like iSera Bio in Pune are already working with large pharma companies to help them deal with the urgency of responding to COVID-19. The changed environment will create a favourable and enabling environment for more innovators to enter the field.


Moreover, not just in pharma and life sciences, adjacent opportunities to build efficiencies in the entire supply chain – from distributed procurement, manufacturing, warehousing, logistics and reverse logistics – corporations and governments are looking at innovations and technologies to build efficiencies, transparency and visibility in the entire supply chain. 


As an investor, what is your advice for logistics, supply chain start-ups to tide over these tough times? What are the immediate measures they should take to survive and thrive?   

We pick sectors that have large opportunities, and where technology innovations can help address the problems and challenges. Start-ups entering these sectors have to quickly build the competencies and maturity for scale. Our advice to start-ups has always been to build a foundation for scale, and our programs are designed to help them do just that. Our advice to start-ups in the supply chain space – THE TIME IS NOW.


COVID-19 vaccineslife sciencesLumis Partnerspharma supply chainSupply Chain Labssupply chain start-upstrace & track
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