by Andrew Elder
Some of the most exciting mega-trends shaping the future of healthcare are gathering pace.
From harnessing the body’s own cell systems to combat disease (for example using cell & gene therapies), to ’digital health' and the use of increasingly powerful Artificial Intelligence-enhanced approaches to accelerate care delivery, diagnostics and therapeutic discovery... Albion is involved at the cutting edge of all of these, through both its VCTs and its UCL Technology Fund.
2018 saw Albion invest in four more digital health companies, from rare diseases to mental health and patient engagement to “care pathway” communications. Health systems and pharmaceutical companies alike are now starting to put their money where their hype used to be and are appreciating the need to embed data at the heart of their processes and understanding. The result is a plethora of new business models emerging, and whilst it is early days for many of them, Albion is pleased to be at the forefront of helping the winners emerge. Not only should those winners deliver strong financial returns, but in the process deliver significant positive health impact.
Take, for example, Albion’s investment in Healios, a leading provider of digital-enabled mental health therapy for children. The explosion of mental health issues in our younger generation is becoming clear. But access to mental health therapists has always been a bottle-neck, made worse by the associated stigma. Healios’ clinically validated approach addresses both of these by enabling therapists to deliver their care more effectively, to and from any location in the country. And the kids are more likely to engage in the digital platform than face to face, making it a win-win for all stakeholders – cheaper, better outcomes with higher levels of patient engagement and immediate access to therapy… it’s no wonder the NHS is keen for a faster roll-out of their services.
And it’s not just about slightly improved care; the sector is increasingly looking at delivery of complete cures. The UCL Tech Fund continues to invest in treatments that are currently saving lives by curing disease and delivering effective treatments not previously possible. We made several investments during 2018 in cell and gene therapy programmes to cure a range of diseases from immune-deficiencies to blood clotting disorders, as well as novel approaches to curing a range of hard-to-treat cancers. UCL is at the forefront of world research to deliver these types of treatments, and it’s a privilege to be working alongside some of the best in the world. The value of doing so is perfectly demonstrated by the Nasdaq floats of three UCL companies in this sector during 2018, at a total of more than $3Bn in market value – Albion’s involvement in cutting edge science is leading not just to better health but strong potential financial returns too.
UCL also punches at the level of global super-power in Artificial Intelligence, and what better time to be a leader in the field… there’s barely a business plan around now that doesn’t claim to use AI to enhance its offering. Being close to the leading experts in the sector helps Albion sort the wheat from the chaff and provides unparalleled exposure to exciting investment opportunities, both in tech and health tech. And the pace in this sector is breath-taking, with the UCL Tech Fund achieving its first exit of an AI-based company to Facebook during 2018, a mere 18 months after first investment. It’s little wonder then that the Global University Venturing forum recognised Albion’s UCL Tech Fund team in their Top 20 Global Power List for 2018.
2018 saw an unprecedented level of investment activity for Albion in the sectors spanning health technology. Fortunately there is no sign of that letting up in 2019…