The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a major shift to digitalization in and around healthcare, but a new report from Accenture suggests that even more changes came in a category of innovation dubbed “New Science.”

New Science, a term the authors coined for a category that delivers more precise and innovative treatments to target unmet patient needs, is driving more growth than predicted, according to the report. But it comes with higher prices for those therapies.

“The term ‘specialty’ is a very crass and outdated view of the world, so we created our own methodology to think about the future of medicine,” said Accenture managing director Ray Pressburger. “New Science is our take on where the investment of the industry is going, in terms of medicine for patients.”

In 2020, the growth of New Science exceeded expectations. By 2026, the authors estimate it will drive 81% of biopharma revenue growth, as well as 61% of all revenue.

The report defines New Science as a combination of medicine or therapeutic technologies that is more focused on the burden of disease on patients. That includes a move away from primary care and into more specialty products, driven and characterized by a tighter focus on unmet patient need.

New Science might also refer to therapies characterized by novel molecular scientific platforms – like cell and gene therapies, monoclonal antibodies or therapeutics highly integrated with digital technologies – as well as immuno-oncology drugs.

“The industry has made a dramatic pivot from older therapeutic areas and broader populations of big chronic diseases into these new scientific areas – and, interestingly, probably faster than most have expected,” Pressburger said.

But he pointed out that innovative therapies come with a higher price tag, which represents a new economic reality for the biopharma industry. As New Science grows, the report argues, biopharma companies will have to find new ways to rebalance the treatment/cost equation.

Addressing the issue of profitability could come down to reducing the cost of treatment development from “billions to millions,” Pressburger said.

“We need to shift the cost basis for discovering, researching and bringing new medicines to market. We need to take that down. A big part of doing that is going to be applying technology across the value chain of our clients.”

So what does growth in New Science mean for healthcare marketers? The shift to new scientific platforms and narrower populations will likely bring a new complexity to communications.

“As we target smaller populations with these medicines, the message is around who benefits from the medicine and what is unique about it,” Pressburger said. “In many cases it comes with various biomarkers to confirm whether a patient is eligible. It’s more complicated to target smaller populations.”

A main part of the challenge will include simplifying verbiage while at the same time accurately conveying complex scientific information.

“The scientific platforms will require marketers to build and deploy new types of tools to reach customers,” Pressburger continued. “As we see continued shift into areas like rare diseases, in many cases our clients realize marketing the product isn’t the most important thing. It’s actually finding and diagnosing patients who have this disorder – and building muscles around diagnosis and effective market development.”

Pressburger noted that the pandemic required marketers and communicators to move quickly, as information changed daily. That speed will remain important as the industry approves twice the number of new medicines every year – at what Pressburger characterized as “truly unprecedented rates.”

“As a marketer with one product, there are new competitors, new information and data coming out weekly or monthly,” Pressburger noted. “That requires me, as a marketer, to be faster. Some say ‘agile’ is the term of the day, but the speed of marketing is accelerating in this industry because of the pace of New Science.”