AI, MIP, Mental health and global healthcare investment trends

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By Hennie Bezuidenhoudt*

As I have espoused in many previous articles, technological advances in healthcare are continuing at a breakneck speed. These have included advances driven by data collection, AI (Artificial Intelligence), machine learning, robotics, 3D printing, stem cell technologies and genome sequencing … amongst others.

Hennie Bezuidenhout, Martin Freeman
Hennie Bezuidenhoudt and Martin Freeman

In my previous article, I posed the question. “What medical innovations – amongst all these huge developments in healthcare – will attract the most investment?” 

To put it another way “What disruptive medical innovations is the smart money chasing?

I talk about Digital health and the Unicorns in healthcare – those multi-Billion dollar companies who play a key role in the healthcare industry – and this article, the second of two around this subject, focuses on a few other areas where massive advancements are taking place and where investments are being made in this sector.

As we take a look at a few global healthcare investment trends, let’s look at the roles being played by AI, MIP, and Mental health.

Thanks to CB Insights – as I mentioned in my first article – who I  give credit and thanks to for their excellent research and financial impact report – for the 2nd quarter of 2019. This is where I have taken a lot of my information.

AI in healthcare collection

A.I or Artificial Intelligence has been spoken about a lot – with regard to its impact in many spheres of medicine – and its applications are numerous. The 3 key areas where massive supportive funding is being given and where it is playing significant roles are:

  1. Drug simulation – This includes drug recovery and assesses which patients test well to receiving immunotherapy.
  2. The provider settings – AI is used to monitor sepsis and other issues, as well as the integration and analysis of EMRs. This includes Risk stratification, Predictive analytics and clinical decision support. 
  3. For pattern recognition – This is predominantly used in Radiology, Pathology and Dermatology.

The key role players in the AI healthcare sectors are companies like Aillis, Guard-ex, Ablacon and ClearVoxel, to name a few. These are start-ups using A.I to discover new drugs, monitor patients remotely, transfer patient data securely and much more. These start-ups are being well funded and CB-Insights reported that funding for AI start-ups in the 2nd quarter of 2019 reached an all-time high of $864m.

Medical image processing (MIP) 

Medical Image Processing is a part of the aforementioned AI pattern recognition that plays a key role in the areas of Radiology and Pathology specifically. The see the impressive implications of what it is being invested into it, we need to look into 2 of the key role players.  What they are doing and the type of funding they are receiving:

  1. PathAI – PathAI promises  “substantial improvements to the accuracy of diagnosis and the efficacy of treatment of diseases like cancer, leveraging modern approaches in machine and deep learning.” They received total funding in the 2nd quarter of 2019 of $60m.
  1. Sigtuple – According to the CB Insights report, Sigtuple received over $16m in the same period to assist with their use of Artificial Intelligence to “develop hardware and software products to digitise pathology test results for hospitals and clinics.”

Mental health and wellness

Mental health and wellness is a major issue in healthcare. The application of technology and impressive funding into some key role players, is helping to deal with the growing problems in this sector.

These include emotional, psychological and social well-being. Some companies working in areas like eating disorders, depression, substance abuse, stress reduction, PTSD and anxiety are Genetika, Shezlong, and Reflect – to name just a few.

Smart investments

Quartet and Talk space are behavioural technology companies – a mental health benefit platform for employers – received a whopping $120m combined funding in the 2nd quarter of 2019.

Mental health and wealth funding also received an all-time quarterly record in the same period for VC backed funding to start-ups in this sector of $321m. This was across 26 deals, with large rounds going to Quartet and Talk space.

The global investment picture

Within this 2nd quarter of 2019, the CB-Insight report shows an investment picture – of funding into healthcare – at an all-time high. The 2019 global investment picture showed a record first half of the year  a massive $26,914m.

Global healthcare activity – healthcare deals and financing   in the 2nd quarter of 2019 –  reached near highs, but suffered some setback from an Asian drop of some 39%. The largest investments in healthcare – by far – is in the USA.

In summary

We have gratitude that these advancements are taking place and continue to make impressive inroads into better healthcare for all. We cannot, as investors, turn a blind eye to the kind of astute acquisitions that have been made – not simply to enrich oneself – but  the important research and development of which will ultimately produce a longer and healthier life for us all.

An investment into healthcare is an investment into our own and our children’s future,  so – in more ways than one – this is where the really ‘smart’ money is going.

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