Biotech Connection Singapore (BCS) hosted a panel discussion featuring “Emerging Trends in Biotech, Medtech and Healthcare Investments” on May 25th, 6:30 - 8:30pm at Breakthrough Theatre, Matrix, Biopolis. Over 250 professionals from the local biotech ecosystem attended the event and engaged in lively discussions with the panelists.
We invited a panel of distinguished speakers from a spectrum of investment stages to share with us their insights and to highlight some of the upcoming investment trends in the biotech, medtech and healthcare sectors. Among them, Dr. Kenneth Noonan from Lightstone Ventures (also the moderator) and and Dr. Lincoln Chee from Vertex Healthcare Ventures both mainly focus on early-stage/mid-stage development companies. While Ms. Anne Kim (IMC group), who comes from a hybrid private equity/family foundation institution, holds more interest in companies that are already in late-stage/growth stage. Last but not least, Mr. Fabio La Mola from IMS Health shed some light on this topic from the Multinational Corporation (MNC) perspective.
To start with, the panelists commented on the funding landscape and how it has influenced investment approaches. Financing for healthcare and life sciences have remained strong for the past 3-5 years. Dr Chee mentioned that in addition to traditional venture capital firms which have built substantial “dry powder”, new sources of funding from corporate venture and cross-over investors have added to this huge capital pool. Mr Fabio La Mola stated that big pharma corporate companies have indeed turned to acquisitions of late-stage companies to expand their product portfolio as it is more capital efficient than R&D. Besides assets in drugs, simple medical device products with short regulatory approval time seem to be a sweetspot for these large biopharma companies looking to rapidly boost revenue and growth. Dr. Chee and Dr. Noonan both added that with the recent downturn in the biotech & medtech public markets, valuations of companies are back to realistic levels and recent deal sizes have stagnated. The lackluster public markets in turn, has prompted VCs who invest in private companies, to take a more cautious stance. This has seen a flight of capital towards a select few companies with extremely novel technologies or strategies.
The panel then went on to discuss which sectors and therapeutic areas have garnered the most investment interest. Both Dr Noonan and Dr Chee emphasized that innovative biology that address a high unmet need are the main considerations in making their investment decisions. Dr Chee and Dr Noonan see a shift in investment towards platform technologies as it is capable of generating different targets in various areas. Over the past 2-5 years, platform technology has become one of the fastest growing subsectors in the biotech space. With regards to indications, oncology, specifically, immuno-oncology, has received the most investment activity. Infectious disease and diabetes, areas with huge unmet medical needs yet lack innovative strategies, also receive significant support. Similarly, MNCs also place huge amounts of interest in oncology. They are also largely interested in respiratory, neurological and orphan diseases which have small but untapped markets. In addition, these corporate companies have also invested resources in developing innovative healthcare delivery systems, particularly in Asia, for the cheap distribution of drugs. From a growth capital side, Ms Kim highlighted that her firm is interested in investing in services, patient care, ancillary health and healthcare delivery systems. When asked which areas present the most opportunity, Dr Chee indicated he sees promise in products that different kinds of technologies converge on, such as wearables in healthcare, Internet of things (IoT) in healthcare and data in healthcare etc. However, he mentioned that regulatory framework might become a potential hurdle along the way.
Lastly, the panel discussed briefly on the progress made in Singapore’s life science ecosystem and potential areas for development. They mentioned that Singapore has gone through significant changes over the past 5 years. The Singapore Government has played a critical role in transforming the landscape, putting in place the infrastructure for research and entrepreneurial activities and support for scientific manpower development. However, there are still hurdles and challenges that remain to be addressed. Both Ms Kim and Dr Chee emphasized the importance of attracting and developing human capital experienced in business and product development who can work synergistically with scientists towards the successful translation and commercialization of science.
The panel discussion was followed by a networking session whereby the attendees enjoyed food and wine generously sponsored by SMI Pte Ltd and Rachelle the Rabbit.
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