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Health investment is booming like never before – but investors are still looking for one thing in particular

The Corona crisis has really kick-started a new wave of investment in the technologies and digital solutions of the future in health. But legislation risks holding back development, experts warn.

The article is part of the magazine ‘Digital Health 2022’. Read other articles from the theme right here.

While the corona crisis brought many sectors to their knees and society to a standstill, it was also a catalyst for new trends. In particular, it has led to a massive wave of investment in digital health, where remote culture, vaccine development and no physical attendance have in many places renewed the focus on developing the health solutions of the future.

And the trend can be seen in the numbers. Worldwide, a total of $57 billion was invested in health technology in 2021 – a 280 percent increase over 2016, according to analytics firm CB Insights. And if you ask one of the people behind it, the pandemic’s increased focus on health has only given investors more blood in their teeth at the prospect of developing solutions that could have a big impact on the world.

Tony Cheng-fu Chang, Senior Business Developer at BioInnovation Institute Foundation (BII)

“Because an investment can potentially make a big difference, in health technology it is important to have scientific evidence of the impact of a solution. The scientific foundation is perhaps even more important in this field than in others, where the technology is what primarily creates value,” explains Tony Cheng-fu Chang, Senior Business Developer at the BioInnovation Institute Foundation (BII) – an international non-profit life science fund supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

And the point resonates. Because one of the most important things as an investor is to understand the fundamentals and professionalism behind the product when investing in the heavily-regulated healthcare space, says Christian Carlsen, who has many years of experience at Novo Nordisk and now works full-time as an angel investor specialising in healthtech and life science startups.

“Even though I have a heavy technical background, I always find specialists who help me assess a company’s potential. That’s because the fields are usually so complex that you’re fooling yourself if you think you can understand everything as an investor. That’s where it makes the most sense to focus on how the industry is regulated overall and the commercial opportunities, rather than the technical details.” Carlsen explains.

Don’t underestimate people

The solution itself, however, is not always the most important parameter. Because if the profiles of the company are well put together, investors can rely on the start-up itself to make up for any shortcomings in terms of products or skills.

Christian Carlsen, angel investor in Volver Ventures with many years of experience from Novo Nordisk

“Many times as an early stage angel investor you have to look beyond the lack of knowledge of the founders. Often, healthtech startups develop breakthrough technologies or platforms that no one has tried before. It is therefore difficult to know everything about regulation and the commercial opportunities from the start. However, if the founder team listens and understands that they don’t know everything, this is not a problem,” explains Christian Carlsen.

After all, it is the people behind a company, not the product, that will ensure its long-term success.

“The genius of people should not be underestimated. Often it makes sense to invest knowing that the team is innovative. If you can imagine a future with the company, that’s a good sign,” says Cheng-fu Chang.

The Danish ‘but’

While Denmark is in many ways at the forefront of digital health, it’s not all plain sailing. Legislation and regulatory bodies sometimes become an inappropriate footbridge when companies’ solutions open up previously uncharted territory, investors say.

“The challenge is that companies are often introducing a whole new paradigm. And how do you regulate something you’ve never seen, heard or tried before? It’s a perennial dilemma because, after all, regulatory bodies are there for the good of society. At the same time, it can be resource-intensive for a company to get permission to launch a pilot project in the first place,” says Cheng-fu Chang.

The trend also means that Denmark as a country risks becoming less attractive for launching new projects, says Christian Carlsen.

“Denmark has one of the most digitalised healthcare systems in the world, with many parts of our lives being data-driven. This makes it enormously attractive for healthtech startups to initiate pilot projects and find Danish partners. The only problem is that the technology and platform built for the Danish system may not scale because the level of regulation and digitalisation is so markedly different in the rest of the world,” Carlsen explains.
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