Four Predictions for 2021

As we look ahead to 2021, Sema4 Chief Diagnostics Officer Lisa Edelmann and Sema4 Chief Commercial Officer Tom Neyarapally have provided several industry predictions for the New Year. Between them, Lisa and Tom share their perspectives on how COVID-19 will continue changing healthcare, the expanding value of whole genome and whole transcriptome sequencing in healthcare, and how remote healthcare and real-world data will support clinical trials and reduce the cost of drug development.

Read on to learn more about Lisa and Tom’s 2021 forecasts.


Dr Lisa Edelmann

Prediction #1: COVID-19 Will Continue to Change Healthcare as We Know It

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to shape healthcare into 2021 and permanently alter its landscape.  Telemedicine has gained widespread acceptance as a viable alternative to in person visits and this will continue into 2021 and take root in U.S. healthcare systems. The public has become more cognizant of the value of molecular testing and as a result, viral testing for proper diagnosis of cold and flu-like symptoms will become more routine and related fields, such as genetic testing for inherited disease risk and diagnosis, will gain momentum in the collective mainstream consciousness adding to better public awareness and more widespread acceptance.

Prediction #2: Whole Genome Sequencing and Whole Transcriptome Sequencing Will Be Increasingly Leveraged

Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) will gain momentum in 2021 as the main solution for all germline genetic testing, which will enable simultaneous polygenic risk scoring and molecular ancestry determination for more complete and accurate testing solutions.  The current standard of 30X coverage for WGS will be increased to provide this complete solution, but as sequencing costs continue to drop, this testing will be standardized and commoditized at scale to outsourced vendors.  Whole transcriptome sequencing will be utilized more effectively to examine the effects of specific variants on transcription for better assessment of variant pathogenicity, and RNA biomarkers will be actively pursued with far reaching consequences in the detection and prevention of common diseases.


Prediction #3: The Growth of Remote Healthcare Will Positively Impact Healthcare and Clinical Trials

In 2021, the accelerated transition to telemedicine and remote health monitoring spurred by COVID-19 will become increasingly established in both the daily practice of healthcare and in clinical trials. Data generated with these new modalities, along with existing healthcare data, will provide a solid base for real world data-driven synthetic control arms and will also bring underreported patient-derived outcomes into clinical research. Decentralized clinical trials will begin to foster the democratization of trial participation, with the incorporation of real world data ensuring more equitable research insights across populations regarding the clinical efficacy of therapeutics.

Prediction #4: Multiple Factors Will Further Drive Drug Development and Reduce Costs

Several factors will play a role in the further evolution of drug development in 2021, with the systemic effects starting to take hold next year and being fully realized by the mid-2020’s. The continued push for the reduction of healthcare costs will be reflected in a decrease in medication prices and will increase the pressure to reduce the cost of developing those medications. This need will be addressed in part by further integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning into the drug development process which will assist pharma in evaluating drug targets and candidates far in advance of clinical trials and reduce development failure rates.

Additionally, we will see a reduction in costs as a result of incorporating molecular precision medicine into medical practice. Molecular testing will ensure that the right patient gets the right medication based on the molecular profile of the disease, reducing the extended use of ineffective therapies and improving outcomes. Advances in genomic profiling that allow patient stratification will also increase clinical trial success rates, particularly in cancer and other diseases where drug efficacy are tied to specific genetic markers.  Clinicogenomic data-based clinical trial matching combined with software tools improving patient and physician engagement will also shorten the time and cost of developing new drugs and getting them to the right patients.