As a seasoned Tech Bio investor, Hanadi Jabado understands more than most the importance and implications of using data to transform drug discovery and positively change patient outcomes.
A managing partner at innovation investment fund Sana Capital, Hanadi is a passionate advocate for global information sharing and firmly believes the time is now for private investment in early-stage companies that are set to positively shape the future of healthcare.
Here, Hanadi talks to Campden FB about starting the medical and cost-efficient benefits of Tech Bio and the rising importance of ‘data donation’…
What are Tech Bio companies?
Even though you may not be familiar with the term ‘Tech Bio’, you most certainly will have come across Tech Bio companies, which are sometimes also categorised as ‘Digital health’ or ‘Data technology’. While these other labels are technically correct, they fail to capture the importance of data and are often seen as a subset of the Biotech industry. In fact, people have a very similar reaction when I introduce myself as a Tech Bio investor, often exclaiming ‘Don’t you mean you’re a Biotech investor?’
Although the terms Tech Bio and Biotech are confusingly similar, there is a significant difference between the two. A Biotech company innovates by combining the best of Bio and Engineering, while a Tech Bio company combines cutting-edge techniques from both the Tech and Bio sectors leveraging a treasure trove of data, covering anything from patients and drug molecules to healthcare infrastructure and R&D. The superpower of Tech Bio companies is their potential to meaningfully inform and transform drug discovery and patient outcomes.
A great example of the impact Tech Bio has had in our society is the use of data during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data has been key to our understanding of the virus and has underpinned the tremendous efforts to safely develop Covid-19 vaccines in record time, as well as to identify symptoms and contain the spread of the disease. None of this would have been possible had the industry not taken the time to gain insight from the data.
Tech Bio companies found that by harnessing patients’ genetic data, they could create software capable of predicting a patient’s reaction to any given drug.
In addition to the medical benefits, is there a cost-efficiency to data-driven healthcare?
Absolutely! It’s about cost and efficiency! Data-driven technologies enable the healthcare system to deliver increasingly personalised solutions to a greater number of patients at a lower cost. In a nutshell, it’s cheaper and more efficient.
A perfect example of this would be how leveraging data led to lowering the cost involved in prescribing drugs. It also was a catalyst in increasing personalised healthcare and better control of side effects on patients. Each person will have a somewhat unique response to a drug, and the stronger the drug, the more dangerous the side effects. At times, the risk is necessary to treat the illness, but it can also cause additional complications which, in extreme cases, can lead to death. However, Tech Bio companies found that by harnessing patients’ genetic data, they could create software capable of predicting a patient’s reaction to any given drug. These platforms can now provide healthcare practitioners with a personalised analysis breaking down for each patient which drugs are likely to be more effective, which are likely to cause harmful side effects, and in which quantities they should be prescribed. Not only does this data-driven solution have a clear and powerful impact on patients themselves, it also significantly reduces costs to healthcare systems (such as the NHS) by ensuring that expensive drugs are not wasted and allocated effectively - and there are many more examples of this.
Are there inherent problems in encouraging global data information sharing? If so, how in your opinion can this be overcome?
I truly believe that each and every one of us can only benefit from global data information sharing - so long as it’s done properly. I would go even further, my fear is that we are missing out on a huge opportunity right now, and that opportunity is getting a snapshot of the global state of human health. The data is there - it is widely available - however it is fragmented, siloed and badly curated.
The only way forward in order to drive patient-centred healthcare is by encouraging global data information sharing.
Collaboration between healthcare systems (like the NHS) and life sciences companies is already changing health outcomes and there is a huge potential to transform future healthcare for patients here in the UK and around the world.
I mentioned the pandemic earlier. The ground-breaking speed and efficiency with which the Covid-19 vaccines were developed would not have been possible were it not for the global collaboration - and data sharing - between the healthcare providers, researchers and life science companies. Now that we’re emerging from the other side of the pandemic and back in our offices and ‘normal’ lives, we need to look back at the processes that drove this innovation, rather than slip back into the pre-pandemic status quo.
That being said, there are of course certain questions around data sharing we need to be aware of and address. Who owns the data? Where should it be stored? How can we ensure patient confidentiality is protected? These and many other questions can and should be worked out with a collaborative mindset. By holding on to pockets of data and refusing to work towards a mutually beneficial data sharing agreement for fear of losing out, we lose out on so many opportunities for innovation and breakthroughs. It is important to remember that 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
You assert that data donation will soon become more important to global healthcare than organ and blood donation, why is this?
As Tech Bio gains momentum, people are realising the power of their health data and seeing how sharing or donating it can play a direct role in improving outcomes.
By educating and empowering people - not just patients - to donate their data, we’ll be in a position to save even more lives than just being an organ or blood donor. Please, do not read me wrong - I donate blood regularly! I would highly encourage people to donate if they are able to, as this without any doubt saves lives. Data donation has the power to go further and to be pre-emptive. The bigger and richer in diversity the database grows, the better our chances of developing technologies to detect illnesses before they progress too far. However, if we are going to succeed with this transformation, then it’s critical that we bring people with us on the journey and we can build patient confidence in sharing their data, ultimately driving better health outcomes for all.
Tech Bio will help deliver better, more personalised healthcare to more patients, faster, and in a more cost-efficient manner, moving from treatment to prevention.
How will the Tech Bio landscape look in ten years’ time?
Looking ahead, we can expect to see a continued focus on digital health, genomics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive innovation and maximise value within the healthcare system. As well, with the ever-increasing pace of technological advancement, we can expect to see further advancements in areas such as computational biology, cell and gene therapies, and medical robotics.
But really, in practical terms, this means providing care where and when it is needed, with the general population fully empowered and educated about health risks and happy to monitor their health through validated apps and devices.
In ten years’ time, I see Tech Bio having delivered on its potential to help us shift from a pure Healthcare perspective to a wider Health perspective, from a patient focus to a people focus and where healthcare systems are no longer burdened. Tech Bio will help deliver better, more personalised healthcare to more patients, faster, and in a more cost-efficient manner, moving from treatment to prevention.
Leveraging the wealth of data, we’ll be able to predict which groups of people are more susceptible to illness (prevention); to be able to identify potential diseases based on data extracted from existing patients (screening); to support clinicians by using comparisons with existing patient data (diagnosis); to reduce the time it takes for patients to get access to treatments (drug discovery / treatment); to track how patients are responding to treatments to better inform clinicians on their progress (response); to predict which patients and groups are more susceptible to future complications (follow-up).
What part will Sana Capital have in that evolution?
More start-ups are emerging in need of investment at early-stages from people who understand the challenges and risks of working in this interface area, have industry expertise, and a little black book of tailored contacts.
In the UK and in Europe particularly, we see a paradigm: On the one hand, we are at the cutting edge of data-driven life sciences, with healthcare systems that while fragmented have a wealth of data, and on the other hand we lack early-stage funding.
At the moment, Tech Bio companies can seek investment from two different types of investors: Tech investors or Life Sciences investors. Neither group is fully comfortable with the data play and with the emerging business models associated, tech investors are impatient as Tech Bio companies behave differently to pure consumer tech companies and they cannot apply their usual metrics and timeframes, while life science investors do not feel at ease with the pure tech angle.
At Sana Capital, we are fluent in both and are comfortable working with the Tech Bio innovators to reimagine the business models and harness the power of data.
What advice would you give to family offices looking to invest into this space but don’t know where to start?
There is an opportunity for private investment in Europe and the UK. By investing now in early-stage companies, family offices would have access to European valuations with, for the first time, a chance to achieve US-sized exits…The time is now.
Sana Capital will be presenting at Campden Wealth’s European Family Alternative Investment Forum on February 28-March 1, 2023. For further information on the forum, click here.