COVID-19 and the Emphasis For Life Sciences and Medical Technology Investment

Apr 11, 2020 | Blog


Issue #54. Friday, April 10
Hello Everyone,

For this edition of the Zoic newsletter, we will be continuing our look at technologies that are helping or can help with the current COVID-19 health crisis. We believe that this pandemic will put even further emphasis on investing in life sciences and medical technology. For the short term, though, there are immediate needs in diagnosis, testing and therapies as well as supporting platforms that can all help.-Neal

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Zoic Partner and Head of Diligence, Eric Tan, joins the podcast to walk listeners through the journey of testing for COVID-19 and the bottlenecks at each step.
COVID-19, The Journey Is the Destination: Guest Eric Tan
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COVID-19 and the Emphasis For Life Sciences and Medical Technology Investment

A major update to testing has been the roll-out of approved COVID-19 (or, more specifically, the SARS-CoV-2 virus) tests that can use major manufacturer’s testing platforms, such as Roche. The newest nucleic acid test from Abbott can use their platform that can produce a result in a matter of minutes, instead of hours. This utilizes isothermal DNA amplification, which only requires one temperature rather than having to cycle through many temperatures that the current standard, PCR, requires. The sample does need preparation and purification before amplification, but this can at least help produce results faster in the lab. 
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Nucleic acid tests are becoming more available, but there are still limits being placed due to bottlenecks in gathering samples, as well as the materials and skilled personnel required. Antibody tests are also becoming available for COVID-19, which are faster to develop and require less complexity to run. These tests, such as from BD, however, can only tell you if you have been exposed to the CoV-2 virus and recovered due to your immune system producing antibodies to the infection. This may be still useful though, especially to health care workers and other first responders in determining if they can return back to work. 
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The testing difficulties show some of the limitations of current platforms, which require a great deal of infrastructure, personnel and large capital equipment. In the near future, we hope to help bring out devices that can replicate the accuracy of lab machines but in a portable enough form so they can be used at home, much like current wearables. Even these wearables may have some use now, for example by tracking temperature when available. Some of this data showing a rise in temperature due to new fevers can show the rise of a new hotspot, concentrating resources and starting to stay at home orders at an earlier time. 
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In addition to testing and diagnostics, we are all seeing the strain on every aspect of medical equipment and the supply chain. Standard items such as personal protective equipment, beds and especially ventilators. There is a scramble now to produce more of these and adding to capacity by designing lower-cost versions and using manufacturing capability from other industries such as vehicles. It remains to be seen whether this will result in longer-term investment in improvements to these commodity devices, such as platforms that can be more easily expanded in emergencies. The majority of uses after this crisis will probably return back to what it used to be, but there is still room for innovation to reduce costs and complexity in equipment – we will be keeping on eye on these. 
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COVID-19 is but one example of the rise of new infectious diseases, many of which are either RNA based or affect RNA. These are new variants of existing diseases such as yellow fever. RNA is also seen as a very promising platform to fight infectious diseases, cancer and even autoimmune diseases. This platform is still seeing active acquisition and partnering activity. We continue to monitor this field as we believe it will continue to expand, with acquisitions to continue of startups at a relatively early phase. 
Read More
What We’re Reading
McKinsey & Company
Scenarios For the Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis
How Early-Stage Investors and Founders Are Reacting to the COVID-19 Crisis
 The Verge
Microsoft Thinks Coronavirus Will Forever Change the Way We Work and Learn
Every Aspect of the Coronavirus Pandemic Exposes America’s Devastating Inequalities

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