By Nathan Sigworth
The impact of Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on our health care system and identified the gaps that desperately need solutions. These pockets provide venture capital and entrepreneurs a window into new ways they can help to transform health care. And the focus is more significant than ever: a space that used to be niche has now taken center stage as day traders are investing in biotech companies, and everyone has become armchair epidemiologists.
But where will we see the dollars flow? Indeed, there will be continued investment in drug and vaccine development. But as an entrepreneur at the intersection of health care, technology, and pharma, and as someone who is in regular touch with investors, I believe there will be few more unexpected trends for opportunities — and not just in telemedicine, as most people would assume.
1. Basic, boring infrastructure
Oncology screenings, care, and surgeries have fallen by the wayside. That means fewer early-stage cases getting caught and the downstream impact of that. And while there has been an explosion in oncology innovation, the industry will need the infrastructure around the new science, the market access processes, and the distribution processes.
It almost goes without saying how the disorganized rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine demonstrates this point. It’s not enough to have lifesaving medicine — you need infrastructure to support it. I believe we will see more startups focusing on getting the drugs into people’s hands through improved deal management and negotiation, better tracking and monitoring, etc.
We can’t use all this fancy new technology if we can’t deliver those advancements to patients.
2. Innovation in sanitation
We used to think if you smell someone’s breath, that person should take a breath mint. Now it’s — why is that person standing close enough for me to smell their breath? Even once we have control over Covid-19, people will be much more conscious of how the spaces they enter are cleaned and sanitized. Think hotels, office buildings, gyms, concert venues, etc. Technology that supports disinfecting companies and sanitization will become extremely attractive.
I believe it will also become part of the marketing these places do to get people comfortable to come and start spending money again. There’s a common expectation that the hospital is a common place to get sick because pathogens are there. There is a real opportunity that I believe could be incredibly impactful.
3. Mining the Covid data
My friend Alasdair Thong recently told me he is very interested in startups mining the Covid data for things other than Covid.
Here’s an example: What companies will take all the chest x-rays done for Covid and analyze them for lung cancer? Those will be some fascinating companies. Instead of starting with AI and looking for the data, AI diagnostics will have the first wave of success if they can capitalize on the data coming from Covid, and create the intelligence and deploy it on top of this.
4. B2G sales
Companies that sell products and services to the government will feel less risky for venture capitalists. There used to be significant hesitation due to long lead times and procurement processes. But we’ve seen it become more palatable as more startups receive massive contracts from governments.
We have a window of time and an opportunity to fix a lot of what we’ve caught in this dark moment in history, and I hope we will come to see it as only a slight tear in the fabric of our health care system.
Hopefully, those with dollars to spend will use this as an opportunity to fix things and provide the resources to those brave enough to do so. We should think of this pandemic — as awful as it is, and yet as mild as it could have been — like a vaccine itself — to spur an “immune response” in our health care system.
About the Author
Nathan Sigworth is CEO of PharmaCCX — an independent, third-party technology platform working with payers and pharma to help increase patient access to promising therapies.