Impact of COVID-19 on biotechnology – Good time to invest

A Pandemic Legacy: Saving Lives

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to be felt, both at its human cost and the devastation it has had on economies around the world. However, there seems to be a silver lining to the COVID cloud in the shape of medical research.

Changes in healthcare research and development

The pandemic has radically changed the way healthcare research and development is conducted and funded — most obviously in the areas of vaccine and drug development, but also with the use of artificial intelligence for medical research. In this context, it is not unreasonable to hope that one day, research driven by COVID-19 could save more lives than the pandemic has.

Biotechnology thrives while other sectors stagnate

In the dark, deadlocked days of 2020–2021, the Biotechnology sector thrived while others stagnated. However, the conceivable stratospheric financial performance of companies such as Moderna, BioNTech, and Pfizer, in that time has slowed, with the market realizing that the top of that particular wave has passed.

However, with predictions of slowing growth now priced into market valuations – and with the world now awake to the possibilities that new medical technologies have – the Is biotechnology still a good investment opportunity? And can investors help prepare humanity for the next pandemic when it hits?

mRNA breakthrough

The most obvious and well-publicized development on the impact of COVID-19 on Biotechnology is using mRNA in vaccine development. Messenger RiboNucleic Acid, as it’s full and catchy name, works by instructing the human body to make antibodies (as opposed to the traditional method, which encourages antibody production by giving the immune system a boost. exposure to a small fraction of the virus).

The idea of ​​using mRNA technology is not new, but has been sceptical for some time. Moderna, one of the pioneers of this technology, was not able to use it to develop a drug until 2020.

However, now that the world has seen the incredible success of this technology, there are many trials underway for an mRNA vaccine against a range of diseases – including HIV, shingles and shingles. flu. There are also optimists that the technology could even be adapted to develop cancer drugs.

An AI Revolution

Less heralded but potentially even more exciting is the expansion in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in drug development. As in other fields, benefits of AI In this area, it is capable of accelerating the process of analyzing information and accurately predicting results.

In 2020, BioNTech partnered with Tunisian startup Instadeep to model the behavior of proteins, supporting the company’s creation of a COVID-19 vaccine — a great example of innovation in field of machine learning, as the tools used were originally developed for language translation.

Development of computational methods to predict future mutations

Earlier this year (2022), the companies announced that the same tools had been used to create a computational method that could predict future mutations in the virus – demonstrating great potential. and the versatility of AI in biotechnology.

Other use AI involves examining a wide range of existing drugs in the hope that they can be substituted for the treatment of other ailments and diseases. It has also been applied in architecture/building management environments to simulate hospital airflow patterns and to reduce (or prevent) the transmission of airborne diseases.

Innovation from crisis

In addition to these radical changes in how drugs and treatments are developed, the pandemic has also brought about simpler but equally important advances in antiviral treatments. , as well as testing and diagnostics.

Pfizer’s drug “Paxlovid”, used in the treatment of moderate cases of COVID-19, has been shown to be almost 90% effective in preventing death or hospitalization. Meanwhile, another treatment used in the fight against the virus is “monoclonal antibodies”—just one output from the vast amount of research done into antibody treatments. new in the past two years.

Expanding remote drug testing

The urgency of COVID-19 has stimulated the expansion of telemedicine trials, and the advent of “major trials” has been shown to accelerate the testing process and, as a result, the approval of drugs. useful drugs.

Likewise, diagnostic technology has also made rapid advances, with global recognition of the urgent need for a robust diagnostic structure to help contain or mitigate the pandemic threat. next.

Investing in biotechnology in the middle of a pandemic: An opportunity for the long term

With the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and the world still recovering from COVID-19, climate remains a challenge for many sectors, but Biotechnology has thwarted this trend. Thinking about the future, many recent developments suggest exciting investment possibilities for this sector.

Biotechnology Double-digit growth – VC – Triple-digit growth from IPOs

From 2019–2020, Biotech saw double-digit year-over-year growth from VCs — with triple-digit growth from IPOs during that period. While we may not see another year like that, the sector has a reputation as a safe investment area and a perennial home of innovation.

Of course, the current pandemic is not over, and as it moves from pandemic to endemic, new challenges will continue to create new opportunities. The mutations are likely to cause further outbreaks and outbreaks of the virus in the region.

What about Long Hauler Needs and Treatments?

At the same time, another task is the growing need to find cures or treatments for the fatigue, shortness of breath and brain fog that plague people with “Long Covid”. The continued demand for booster shots, affordable tests, and treatments will present many opportunities for the industry to innovate.

The rise in healthcare research means Biotechnology represents a great investment – ​​and above all, a way for investors to make a real impact on global health. as we continue to face challenges in the coming decades.

Image credit: Chokniti Khongchum; Bark; Thank you!

Jimmy Ahern

Jimmy Ahern

Founding Partner at Lucius Partners, LLC, Founder of Laidlaw Venture Partners, and Managing Partner of Laidlaw & Company (UK) Ltd., James “Jimmy” Ahern is an expert in private equity, markets and markets. capital and venture capital focused on medical technology and biotechnology. After building a corporate portfolio by forging relationships with innovation labs at several universities, Jimmy was instrumental in incubating several corporations.

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