During JPM 2023 week, I attended #BiotechShowcase and observed and mingled at many receptions. I met incredible professionals in pharma, biotech, medtech, digital health and almost anyone working with anything to do with health or healthcare. I met VCs, CEOs, and others, witnessed all sorts of deal making conversations, sat in as attendee in investor panels and listened to media roundup.
From these observations, panels and conversations, here is my assessment from very inexperienced eyes – (please take it with a spoonful of salt).
Looking at the decade ahead after the transformational, post-pandemic phase……
- There is capital available for serious players in the field. Easy seed money may have dried up somewhat but there are many sources of funding available to entrepreneurs who can protect their IP, tell a good story, and back up their claims with data. There is still a great deal of hype and every entrepreneur claims to be working on the next company worth $4+ billion. But many investors want to see some serious revenue stream before putting down a check.
- I heard some discussions about the cost of healthcare. We spend a lot of money on healthcare and yet among developed nations, the USA lags behind. There will be continuing increased focus on providers to uplevel care. There was also discussion that we have had fewer curative solutions. My sense is that all these conversations means the industry is seriously focused on solutions that will elevate the quality of healthcare and indeed quality of life.
- Real winners in the decade ahead will be patients. Interesting innovations are happening in challenging areas of oncology to chronic diseases. In oncology, previously the focus was mainly on prolonging life by a few months, there are now discussions for more curative solutions. From diagnostics to transformative therapeutics, quality of life will be better for patients and longevity with better quality of life looks very likely.
- The innovation that is happening is fast paced and on the cusp of several disciplines. The advantages in technology and participation of previously non traditional medtech players like artificial intelligence and machine learning is enabling biotech, medtech and healthcare and facilitating these slower disciplines to evolve rapidly. Remote work, collaborations via zoom and other technologies have broken down silos even further and have facilitated for people from diverse disciplines to come together with ease and without many hurdles.
- Mental health will be a serious aspect of overall healthcare. However, mental health offers an entirely different set of challenges. I will mention three challenges here – insurance reimbursement, objective markers of mental health, integrating service with solutions – 1) The insurers need to step up reimbursement for mental health. Advantages of good mental health in reducing overall costs are increasingly becoming clear and savvy entrepreneurs have been making that case. The payors have yet to step up to impact innovation, although VA is leading in innovation in the mental health arena. 2) Companies may need to come up with objective markers of good mental health – for instance, differences in behaviors, voice, routine maintenance etc. Markers for health are easy – a patient’s blood sugar or BP goes down or does not. However, objective markers of mental health are not yet clear and that clarity will enable more payors to step up for reimbursement. 3) There is also difference in therapeutic solutions. For instance, for a patient with diabetes, once a solution is provided, a patient can be counted upon for measuring blood sugar levels and taking necessary medication. Even then adherence is sometimes an issue. But among mental health patients, that can be much more challenging. Frequently, patients fall off the routine and then have epileptic seizures, repeat attacks of psychosis and during those times, they cannot be counted upon to administer the medications themselves. So companies working on drug therapies for instance, may increasingly need to integrate service with therapeutic solutions and bridge the gap.
- We may likely see foundational changes among regulatory agencies like FDA and in the regulatory framework. As mentioned above, increasingly innovation is happening on the cusp of various disciplines. Much of the regulatory framework has not kept up with these changes and in the years ahead we may likely see brand new, better, tech savvy regulatory agencies and frameworks.
Time to fasten seat belts and get ready for some of the most exciting changes yet to impact quality of life for patients, increase longevity and offer better quality of life overall.