So many people see innovation as a given: It happens in the background, takes a good few years and usually comes together with more than a little luck. We don’t see the toil and failure, we see and demand just the final result. If I feel ill, I go to the doctor and ask for medicine, and, most of the time, that will just be there to make me well.
Or to prevent the really nasty diseases, I can get a vaccine, one that’s probably been around for years, if not decades, to stop me from getting ill in the first place. We don’t really think about it; it’s simply there. We don’t have to worry about so many infectious diseases—from measles, mumps and rubella to polio—and can even dramatically cut the risk of certain HPV-related cancers through a 5-second shot.
But when a new disease comes along that we have no protection from, and our only recourse is to hide, our reliance on innovation comes into sharp focus. The COVID-19 pandemic, at time of writing, has seen more than 400,000 fatalities worldwide with 8 million contracting the infection and only one repurposed drug, in high demand but with small supply, approved to help some patients stay in the hospital with the disease for fewer days.
The life science industry comes under a lot of pressure about its ethics, and sometimes this is deserved; but, in these times, its innovative platforms can, quite literally, save the world, not just from a disease but from what will be a major economic hit that will reverberate for a generation.
Fierce 15 has always been about innovation, but 2020 will be a new watermark for a truly global effort to be innovative, at speed, for nearly 8 billion people.
But, cancer doesn’t stop in a pandemic; nor do genetic diseases, neurological disorders or antibiotic resistance. In fact, with trials disrupted across the board and many too scared or unable to visit their doctor or hospital, these diseases are just as important as SARS-CoV-2 and will likely become more important in the coming months and years if new drugs for these areas are delayed because of this outbreak.
So, this year, we will be seeking out biotech companies working on all areas of innovation, but in a break from the norm, we will also be holding a few places within the 15 for those working on experimental COVID-19 research, both for treatments and vaccinations.
If you are a cancer biotech or a rare disease biotech working on an innovative new medicine or platform, we still want your nomination; but so, too, do we want to hear from those working on COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, including those that may not be hitting the headlines. That can include academic research.
Our nominations page is below; you will not receive a confirmation, but rest assured we get and read them all. We’ll be picking our final 15 in the coming weeks, with the winners revealed in September.— Ben Adams, senior editor, Fierce Biotech