25 January 2021
Ameer Khan Ben Paice Eleanor Doolin Jack Shute Matthew Barrows Paul Atkinson By Ameer Khan & Ben Paice & Eleanor Doolin & Jack Shute & Matthew Barrows & Paul Atkinson

What Can You Expect from Life Sciences in 2021?

It's a new year that's brimming with opportunity.

We can't wait to continue partnering with you all, whether it be on recruitment projects or creating content, searching together to find the future in 2021.

And what a 2021 it promises to be! A vaccine is on the way and there's light at the end of the tunnel. 

With an exciting year ahead, we wanted to be prepared and know what to watch out for. So, our senior CM Life Science recruitment consultants have collaborated to tell us what they're expecting to happen in life science this year, sharing insight and predictions about their own specialist markets.

Paul Atkinson, Director


2020 was expected to be a ‘mega year’ for life science companies with a reported $1.4 trillion in firepower at their disposal for mergers and acquisitions (M&As).

However, due to COVID-19, it was anything but that. For a re-cap of the years’ M&As, feel free to read my latest article.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, I’m excited. Life science companies have adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 and an uptake in M&A activity can be expected.

Already, we’ve seen the likes of Thermo Fisher Scientific stepping-up their M&A game. In a deal worth up to $550 million, the company plan to acquire the point-of-care molecular diagnostics firm, Mesa Biotech.

This deal is expected to close in the first quarter, with Mesa Biotech becoming part of Thermo Fisher's Life Sciences Solutions business segment.

Mesa Biotech's easy-to-use, rapid PCR-based test will complement the existing Thermo Fischer offering, as well as provide support for the continuing demand for COVID-related testing and point-of-care tests for other infectious diseases.

More deals will soon follow. According to a recent survey, 58% life science executives say they plan to actively pursue M&A in the next 12 months. Of these, more than three-quarters say that their planned M&A activity will include bolt-on acquisitions or deal-making for transitional capabilities.

Given the strong preference for smaller bolt-on deals, the value of life sciences M&A is unlikely to eclipse the 2019 total. However, that’s not to say the market is not in a healthy and exciting position.

Once things have normalised, there is expectation that the new normal will look very different to time before COVID-19. Some changes made by life science companies in response to the pandemic may be temporary, but more will be permanent. These changes will create new opportunities for portfolio re-optimization, supply chain repatriation and digital transformation.

Leaders will be determined to reimagine their strategy and how they use transformative deal-making to reposition themselves for renewed growth in the uncertain future.

If you have any feedback about my M&A predictions, would like to talk about hiring plans or your advancing your own career; please email me via Paul.Atkinson@lifesci-cm.com.

If you’re interested in diagnostics-specific content, take a look at my consultant page.


Jack Shute, Director


With ongoing advances in science and technology, the cell and gene therapy pipeline has grown especially robust over the past few years. I’m looking forward to seeing this space expand in 2021.

According to ClinicalTrials.gov, there are more than 4,500 active gene therapy trials globally. Considering the critical need for safe, effective gene therapies and the rapid pace of development, it's important for pharma and biopharma to find a CDMO with both gene therapy capabilities and availability to take on new partners.

Already, we’ve seen multiple movements among major CDMOs to expand in this area. Cognate BioServices has plans to grow its US headquarters with two new facilities. It is also looking to scale-up its dedicated gene therapy unit, Cobra Biologics, in Europe.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has got in on the act too, with its €725 million cash-purchase of Henogen SA, Groupe Novasep SAS’s viral vector manufacturing business in Belgium. Thermo Fisher has been pushing into the gene and cell therapy space for some time now, having previously acquired Brammer Bio for $1.7 billion.

There’s also been activity from Fujifilm, which has combined with The Massachusetts Center for Advanced Biological Innovation and Manufacturing (CABIM) to provide $76 million in funding and sign a lease for a 40,000-square-foot site at The Arsenal on the Charles business park in Watertown. It will become operational in early 2022 and support research and development in cell and gene therapy, gene editing, immunotherapy and biotechnology.

Although there is a high demand for CDMOs with gene therapy expertise, the market is quickly growing with new cell and gene therapy CDMOs emerging and established CDMOs expanding capabilities.

I’m excited to see gene therapy research continue to expand, with innovations being supported by CDMOs with highly specific expertise, facilities and equipment.

If you would like to talk about this trend, your hiring plans or advancing your career; please email me at Jack.Shute@lifesci-cm.com.

You can find more content about the wider pharmaceuticals and CDMO space on my consultant page.


Ameer Khan, Principal Consultant

Pharma Packaging

It was an extremely exciting end to 2020 with the announcement of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer- BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

This has put a significant amount of pressure on the pharma manufacturers of glass vials and syringes to support this global, mass vaccination program.

In 2019, I wrote an article which posed the question: “Are These 5 Pharma Packaging Companies Evolving Quickest?”. And it’s been no surprise to see the likes of Gerresheimer and Aptar Pharma at the heart of this packaging response for COVID-19.

There’s a lot of pressure on pharma packaging and this mass vaccination (and will continue to be). I expect this to birth innovation throughout the space, as companies continue to adapt to and overcome countless challenges this year.

SiO2 Material Science, a company already supplying products for the vaccines, uses a combination of glass and plastic fused containers. Well-respected for its innovation, the US materials science specialist will play a crucial role this year.

The same goes for Corning, which has also developed a high-tech valor glass. This is the gorilla glass of the pharma industry and is the strongest vial on the market to date. Whether this company lend a hand in the COVID-19 vaccination program or not, it will be one to watch for 2021.

Moving away from COVID-19 and focusing on innovation within the pharma packaging space, I expect a continued uptake in digital pharma packaging. This exciting, new area of the industry is taking off with its array of pioneering products.

A standout product in this area is digital caps, which can monitor adherence and send reminders via an app to patients. Although it is early days for these digital products, I believe this year everyone will take notice of them – with companies like Aptar Pharma and Nolato are spearheading these efforts.

Please give me an email at Ameer.Khan@lifesci-cm.com if you’d like to speak about pharma packaging, your hiring plans or advancing your own career this year.

You can see more content like this on my consultant page.


Matthew Barrows, Principal Consultant


2020 changed the CRO space forever and I can’t wait to see how it shapes-up.

For starters, in Q4 of 2020 there were a number of exciting mergers and acquisitions. I’m looking forward to seeing how these newly formed companies disrupt the market in 2021. Below are some examples of the deals I’m talking about:

  • Selvita’s acquisition of Fidelta
  • Syneos Health’s acquisition of Synteract
  • Syneos Health’s acquisition of Illingworth Research
  • Pharmaron’s acquisition of Absorption Systems
  • The ERT & Bioclinica merger
  • Ergomed’s acquisition of Medsource
  • The Novotech & PPC China merger

That’s not all.

COVID-19 forced the industry to adapt, so we could keep clinical trials running safely. This encouraged a boom in virtual trials, which are advantageous in a pandemic because they have fewer touch points between the caregiver, provider and the patient than traditional models and take-up fewer healthcare resources.

For more information on this trend, I’d recommend reading CM Life Science’s article “Decentralised Trials are the Future”, which features interviews from two industry leaders – one of which has achieved a 95% continuance of all clinical trials with no interruption since the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s clear that virtual trials aren’t going anywhere. This year, established business will continue to adapt and establish new infrastructure to accommodate this. It will be fascinating to see how they compete with the younger businesses that have popped-up to provide specialist support for digital clinical trial landscapes. This includes innovative companies like Medable, Science 37, Castor, Lightship Research, THREAD Research, Unlearn AI and more.

If you’ve got two minutes, it’d be great to know what you think about my article about these new, innovative companies. It features a quick interview with Darcy Forman, VP Clinical Operations of Science 37. Let me know what you think by emailing Matthew.Barrows@lifesci-cm.com.

You can see more of my content on my consultant page.


Eleanor Doolin, Business Manager


2020 life science news was dominated by COVID-19 test and vaccine developments. However, there were also major advancements in other areas too, like Alzheimers, and I am excited to see how this space grows in 2021.

Today, more than 50 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias around the world. With our ageing population, this number is only getting bigger.

However, I’m proud to see the IVD space taking action to combat the disease. In December 2020, the US congress agreed a $300 million increase in spending on Alzheimers research – taking the figure to $3.2 billion. There’s also been numerous innovations from smaller companies which I’m excited to see come to light this year.

Already in 2021, we’ve seen Helix receive FDA approval for its whole platform for assessing the genetic risk of Alzheimers.

Fujirebio Diagnostics is also getting in on the act, with the US company awaiting FDA approval for its Alzheimer’s diagnostic test: the Lumipulse G β-Amyloid Ratio (1-42/1-40). If cleared by the FDA, it will be among the first commercially available lab tests to assess the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in adults with signs of cognitive impairment.

In addition, C2N Diagnostics has released a new test for Alzheimer’s which is also awaiting an FDA approval this year. The company hopes that its blood test can replace the scan as the most common way of identifying Alzheimer’s.  Although it has not yet been approved for use by the FDA, the test is being sold in all but a few US states and has been cleared for sale in Europe.

Many more companies looking to enter this space in 2021 and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Quanterix has already shown us how lucrative it can be. In Q3 of last year, the Massachusetts-based company saw an increase of 111% - which was way above the Wall Street estimate. CEO Kevin Hrusovsky credited this to the success of the company’s Alzheimer drug development and the increased uptake of their fourplex Alzheimer’s protein panel.

The future looks bright for Alzheimer’s testing and this will be supported by the like of DiamiR, which received a grant to develop its lab test for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimers test. I’m excited to see how that goes.

Please give me an email at Eleanor.Doolin@lifesci-cm.com if you’d like to speak about the IVD space, your hiring plans or advancing your own career this year.

You can see more content like this on my consultant page.


Ben Paice, Business Manager


There are a lot of new companies innovating in the use of data science and bioinformatics across most areas of life sciences. However, I think the area we will see the most advancements are in the use of bioinformatics in informing therapeutic decisions around various types of cancer.

A lot is already being done in today’s market, but what I think will become more prevalent is how this is used in personalised medicine and companion diagnostics. For more information on this space read my article: “Why is Companion Diagnostics Making Worldwide Personalised Healthcare a Reality?”

Collaborations between IVD companies and the large pharma groups are becoming more and more common, as scientists look for a way to provide patients with a truly personalised approach to their treatment.

Bioinformatics will support this by analysing stored data and understanding the results that are being generated through expansive clinical trials. It will also allow those collaborating on the development of new companion diagnostics the opportunity to access this information. This will ultimately lead to better informed decisions around assay development, drug discovery and development.

As adoption of bioinformatics increases, we’ll start to see even quicker development processes, reduced time in conducting clinical trials and more informed decisions around specific patients or in more general terms, specific cancer mutations present in those people.

You can find more content like this on my consultant page, including a webinar about the impact of AI on drug discovery which featured an expert panel of industry leaders. Please feel free to contact me via Ben.Paice@lifesci-cm.com if you’d like to discuss your hiring plans or advancing your own career in data science and bioinformatics.

We hope you found what our consultants had to say interesting and insightful. If you'd like to collaborate with CM Life Science on content, talk to us about your hiring plans or advancing your own career; please get in touch. We serve a multitude of markets across the life science space.

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Ameer Khan

Ameer Khan has been with CM Life Science since 2017. Today he is a Principal Consultant working within the Pharma Services, Packaging and Drug Delivery spaces. Ameer oversees key accounts for the company, while also looking to expand his customer base and build lasting relationships. He has experience recruiting commercial and technical candidate's all over the world and is truly a specialist within his markets.

Ben Paice

Ben Paice is an Associate Director, leading a team of diagnostic specialists with a global focus. He specialises specifically in data science & bioinformatics and today is responsible for handling some of Charlton Morris’ most important accounts.

Eleanor Doolin

Eleanor Doolin works as an Associate Director working broadly within IVD but has previously spent time focusing specifically in clinical chemistry and oncology, plus advances in non-invasive diagnostic testing. She is always looking to connect with innovative individuals and organisations working in this area.

Jack Shute

Jack Shute is a Director and was a founding member of CM Life Science. In his 7 years with the business he has worked across a range of pharmaceutical markets. Today he manages a team of life science research and pharmaceutical specialists with a global reach.

Matthew Barrows

Matthew Barrows is a Principal Consultant and has been featured on multiple industry news sites discussing the latest trends in the CRO market. As well as commentating on the latest developments in the space, he’s fascinated about the reasons why pharma companies choose particular CROs.

Paul Atkinson

Paul Atkinson is a Director and leads a large team, covering the broader diagnostic markets. As well as handling major accounts, Paul prides himself on his ability to provide a truly consultative service to clients, benefiting from his many years’ experience in the diagnostics space.


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