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‘Necessity drives innovation’: The search for the next health giant

“Having been on that side and experienced it, made a few mistakes myself – it gives you a good perspective on where the value is,” he says.

“You really get to understand the world is not a spreadsheet, and you get to understand what drives the value of companies.”

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Windeyer is now sweeping the globe to find the next big health opportunities for Australian Unity, which launched the Future of Healthcare Fund last October with the express purpose of investing across local and international companies and social infrastructure projects.

The focus comes as investors consider the best way of capturing value in a world that has just borne witness to one of the fastest and most comprehensive health campaigns in human history: the fight against coronavirus.

The battle has boosted global healthcare stocks: the Nasdaq healthcare index is ahead 15 per cent so far this year as stocks such as Moderna go from pandemic trends to companies with truly valuable assets. Unlisted startups, like Brisbane-based rapid COVID testing business Ellume, have inked deals worth hundreds of millions with the US government.

The healthcare fund has so far committed to three investments in early stage companies: rapid testing business Lumos Diagnostics, which is planning an ASX listing, health tech commercialisation firm Planet Innovation, and radio-pharmaceuticals firm Clarity.

Clarity Pharmaceuticals is focused on a significant healthcare trend this decade: personalised medicine. The unlisted pharmaceuticals developer is working on cancer imaging and treatments that target tumours with much more accuracy.

“It’s a really exciting area of science… A lot of new therapies are coming to market, and they are targeted therapies that are quite specific,” Windeyer says.

While many investors have been captivated by the possibilities of platforms like mRNA in the face of the pandemic, Windeyer is focused on trends that will play out no matter how the COVID-19 saga ends.

The federal government is extending Medicare subsidies for telehealth consultations for another six months, until March 2021.

The federal government is extending Medicare subsidies for telehealth consultations for another six months, until March 2021.Credit:

“We look at the market and the product within that market. It’s about the path to market, the ability to get to market and the willingness of the market to pay.

“Getting the timing right is crucial. We spend a lot of time working on the question of whether it’s the right time [for a technology] – is it too early, or is it too late?”

“Strong thematics in health have not necessarily changed with COVID,” Windeyer adds.

Instead, the pandemic has forced governments and investors to focus squarely on trends like the healthcare needs of an ageing population, the rise of virtual consultations and technology that helps medical professionals do their work remotely.

Windeyer says these three themes are going to play out for the next decade or two.

“For example, cardiologists in Europe, they were never having virtual consultations. Then they switched overnight. Necessity drives innovation sometimes,” he says.

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On the domestic market, Windeyer is impressed by the likes of medical imaging provider Pro Medicus, businesses that are carving out a niche for themselves at a time when health professionals are considering where and how they work.

“That’s a real business now — and I think a high quality business.”

As for the ageing population, Windeyer believes the challenges and opportunities of caring for this cohort have not really sunk in for many Australians.

“The needs of that [ageing] population and the social infrastructure gap is still looming,” he says.

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