Parag Shah, Founder and CEO, K2 HealthVentures
At this time last year, we were only just beginning to grasp the totality of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collective loss of life, incalculable suffering, and social and economic disruption experienced during this historic time has been staggering and, at times, unfathomable. It will also go down in history as one of the greatest, most impactful periods of scientific and medical contribution to society on record, and a culmination of the significant advances and breakthroughs of the last several decades – something for which those of us in the industry can be very proud.
We can all recognise how incredible an achievement it has been to develop and deliver multiple highly efficacious novel vaccines to the public in less than 12 months from the first documented case of COVID-19. At the time of writing, over 10 million doses have been administered across 153 countries, a scale that most would not have contemplated even just a few months ago.
Vaccines are not the only triumph of this effort, however. Innovations have taken place across all segments of healthcare, with health practitioners, industry, government, and communities working collaboratively and quickly towards solutions. Telehealth broke through barriers and saw a dramatic surge in demand as providers and patients delivered and accessed care in a virtual setting. New diagnostic tests identified infected patients and served. as the cornerstone of “close contact” and surveillance protocols that have successfully been used to return children to school and employees to work sites. There is still much work to be done in the fight against COVID-19, but it is truly extraordinary and humbling to reflect upon the unprecedented response and mobilisation by our industry in response to this crisis.
Where do we go from here? Beyond the work needed to continue to fight COVID-19, numerous global health challenges remain. Tens of millions of patients suffer from diseases for which there are no treatment options. Healthcare remains inaccessible to billions. Depression, addiction, and obesity have been exacerbated by social isolation during the pandemic. These and other complex chronic illnesses require not just new therapies, but new ways of managing patients. At the same time, there are exciting and novel tools whose potential to impact life sciences are in their early stages, including AI and machine learning, as well as powerful new technologies to edit DNA and unravel the complexities of molecular biology.
The good news is that in terms of capital formation and investment, 2020 was one of the strongest years ever for life sciences, and that momentum has continued in 2021. This bodes well for the future of our industry and its ability to make an impact and drive the next cycle of innovation. Specifically, private healthcare funding totalled $52bn in 2020, breaking all previous records by a wide margin. The public markets also saw record fundraising activity, led by the biotech sector, which saw $14bn in IPO proceeds and another $37bn in follow-on offerings.
At K2 HealthVentures we are doing our part to enable this next generation of innovation in healthcare through providing flexible, long-term financing solutions to private and public companies. Among the many impactful and innovative companies in our portfolio, we would like to highlight two – VBI Vaccines and Evelo Biosciences, which are both working at the forefront of medical science to directly combat COVID-19 (as well as other infectious and inflammatory diseases). We are excited to continue to support these and other promising life sciences companies that are focused on making a difference and improving people’s lives.