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Putting the spotlight on healthcare 2021

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Need for accelerated innovation in healthcare and life sciences

As Covid-19 continues to dominate the global agenda, early-stage UK technology companies in the healthcare and life sciences sectors are at the forefront of making the world a safer and more secure place to live in.

The need for accelerated innovation in global healthcare and life sciences has never been more urgent, as the world grapples with this once-in-a-generation challenge. A frontrunner in the global race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK has reminded the world of its world-leading research capabilities.

While Covid-19 has highlighted this need to a wider audience, the underlying opportunity was supported pre-Covid by key macro trends, such as the global increase in the over 60s population[1] with a higher demand for medical needs, and the ongoing wave of digitisation across every industry.

Further funding is needed to deliver sustainable and meaningful improvements in patient outcomes. This includes addressing operational bottlenecks, both within clinical processes and the provision of care, which are prevalent across the NHS. The pandemic has reminded the UK and the world of the strategic importance of having a strong healthcare and life sciences sector, not only from a public health perspective but also for economic and social stability.

As Dr Will Brooks, who has 30 years of industry experience and has held several C-suite positions within healthcare and life sciences companies, and currently heads the Healthcare team at Downing, comments: “I have a strong conviction in the need for further innovation and advancement within this sector to support the delivery of better patient outcomes. With its world-leading tertiary education and research institutions, the UK has in place a leading ecosystem to foster innovation as a global healthcare and life sciences hub.”

Four main themes for healthcare investment decisions

Downing looks at four main themes that inform their healthcare investment decisions:

  • From intervention to prevention. Even before Covid-19 struck, healthcare institutions in the UK suffered from over-capacity, under-resourcing and burdensome bureaucracy. As digitisation opens up the possibility of data-led decision-making, democratising patient data will allow both end- users and practitioners to make better-informed choices and for practitioners to advise on lifestyle improvements to reduce the likelihood of needing healthcare access in the first place. This results in vastly improved patient outcomes and increased bandwidth for care providers.
  • Point of care. The miniaturisation of devices and robustness and portability of equipment, coupled with advances in ArtificiaI Intelligence (AI) and software, are enabling faster diagnosis whereby patients are sent to dedicated and specialised diagnostic machinery and personnel. AI and software are also assisting medical professionals to make more efficient diagnoses with medical devices that, historically, required years of study and medical practice.
  • Personalisation. As lifespans increase and new technologies are introduced at higher price points, the total cost of healthcare is getting ever more expensive. Personalised therapeutics can provide increased efficacy in a more targeted and safe manner, as well as giving patients the reassurance of having better knowledge and control over their own healthcare.
  • Future Pharma. As new therapies come to market and transform standards of care, the healthcare industry as a whole must also keep pace with the required updates in infrastructure and logistics to administer these complex and novel therapies. The investmentopportunity lies not only in these therapeutic technologies themselves but also the surrounding infrastructure that facilitates them.

Using these four themes as their framework, Downing focuses on the following areas within healthcare and life sciences:

  • Pharmaceutical Services: companies that are seeking to de-risk the end-to-end development pathways of new medicines. Examples include Touchlight and The Electrospinning Company.
  • Medical Devices: entrepreneurs applying advancements in material sciences to medical services and equipment, such as the well-known bionic limbs company “turning disabilities into superpowers”, Open Bionics, as well as Adaptix and Invizius.
  • Therapeutics: novel therapies and platforms that can transform outcomes for patients by personalising medication to make them safer and more efficacious. Examples include DestinyPharma, LIFT BioSciences and Arecor.
  • Digital Health: companies that are taking a leap forward in computing and software and applying it to healthcare environments to improve decision making for practitioners and patients, such as MyRecovery and FundamentalVR.
  • Diagnostics: companies with novel technologies supporting wider coverage and improved precision for diagnosis. These include GENinCode, MIP Diagnostics, Congenica.

The spotlight is on the international healthcare community now more than ever. It is an exciting time to be an investor in this field and to be able to see many of these early-stage companies come to the fore to help solve some of the most demanding challenges of our time. The good news is that they are out there and they are making a big difference every day to the way we live.

About the team

Dr William Brooks, Investment Director

Will joined Downing in August 2018 to direct the healthcare activities of the Downing venture funds. He has over 30 years’ experience in healthcare and biotechnology with over 18 years’ experience in venture capital across Europe and the USA.

Dr Koujiro Tambara, Principal

Kouj joined the team in September 2018. Prior to Downing, he was Head of Operations at AssetVault, a Techstars cohort FinTech based in London. He holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge.

Matt Pierce, Associate

Matt joined Downing in 2018, having qualified as a chartered accountant at Deloitte where he focused on life science clients. After that he worked at Berenberg in the healthcare equity research team. Matt holds a degree in Biotechnology from the University of Edinburgh.

To find out more about our Healthcare team, visit


Risk warnings: if contemplating an investment or investment service, investors should seek independent advice or make his/her own decisions as to the appropriateness of the investment or investment service. Investments of investment services referred to may not be suitable for all recipients. The suitability of a particular strategy will depend on an investor's individual circumstances and objectives.  An investor's Healthcare EIS portfolio will consist of companies in healthcare and life sciences sector so there is relatively limited diversification. Share prices, their values and income can go down as well as up and investors may get back less than their original investment. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The extent and value of any tax advantages or benefits arising from the use of tax-advantaged services will vary according to the individual's circumstances. The levels and bases of taxation may also change. In compliance with the FCA rules, telephone calls may be recorded.


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