Healthcare Tech Races to Treat Coronavirus Outbreak
By: Nina Deka, Senior Research Analyst, ROBO Global
In response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, numerous healthcare organizations from both public and private sectors have quickly acted to contain, treat, and prevent further outbreak. As of this writing, 2019-nCoV has resulted in the death of over 900 people in China, surpassing China’s tragic SARS death toll of 349. Thousands more are infected with 2019-nCoV each day, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global public health emergency.
We know this isn’t the first emerging virus, and, sadly, it is unlikely to be the last. We took a closer look at companies in the HTEC Index that are changing the game in managing pandemics. Companies like Illumina, Regeneron, and Ping An are accelerating the pace of innovation in diagnostics and treatment.
Illumina sequencers enabled the first step to managing the outbreak
Illumina has quickly made significant contributions to the management of the novel coronavirus. Since the outbreak in Wuhan, Illumina has engaged in several ways with partners and colleagues in China. Using Illumina’s sequencers, scientists were able to identify and make the genomic profile of the 2019-nCoV publicly available. This is the first step in the development of diagnostic tests, treatments, and vaccines. Illumina is also working with the Chinese CDC to prepare protocols and training for coronavirus next-generation sequencing. The company is also working to ensure global supply chain availability for its systems and consumables.
Regeneron keeps getting smarter and faster over time
Shifting from genomics to therapeutics, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with Regeneron, based on its proven capability to respond quickly in developing treatments for emerging infectious diseases. This builds on an existing agreement with HHS that began in 2012 to address MERS, a coronavirus closely related to the Wuhan coronavirus. Later in 2014, the public-private partnership joined forces with the WHO to focus on Ebola, and was able to develop a potential cure so quickly (within six months) that the WHO ended its clinical trial of other treatments.
Shortly after scientists sequenced the Wuhan coronavirus genome in January, Regeneron used its software to locate the part of the genome that causes illness. This week, Regeneron announced that it was already scaling up a set of potential antibody treatments, which it hopes to make available for testing or compassion use in patients within a few months, as well as a new set of treatments that could be available soon after. Regeneron initially aimed to make the 2019-nCoV antibody available within a similar length of time as the Ebola antibody cocktail was made available. It now appears that the 2019-nCoV could be available in even less time. This acceleration in development is likely driven by the fact that Regeneron has already done work on similar viruses in the past. However, we also believe the acceleration is a testament to Regeneron’s ability to scale its innovation, learn, and gain efficiency with each study.
Ping An’s remote doctor visits help reduce the spread of infectious disease
Beyond the lab, telemedicine is another particularly useful innovation in times of crisis. Ping An Healthcare and Technology Company is a Shanghai-based company that facilitates remote visits between a physician and a patient via the internet. With China on lockdown, and limited supply of doctors and beds in Wuhan, service providers like Ping An Good Doctor can act as a conduit to redistribute an excess supply of doctors in other regions in response to the patient demand. Remote visits also allow patients to stay at home, reducing the risk the disease will be further spread in a crowded ER or waiting room. This isn’t the first time telemedicine has been used during a public emergency. In 2015, after tornadoes and floods devastated Texas and Oklahoma, Teladoc, a US-based telemedicine company, offered free medical consults to residents of those states. The company offered the same free care to hurricane and fire victims who had been displaced from their homes in the last few years. Emergency situations aside, these companies are two of several telemedicine entrants rapidly improving global access to care, which has been an ongoing crisis.
HTEC enables investors to capture the value of innovation
History has already shown the toll that a global crisis takes on society. As a derivative, it can also impact investments in the near term. The ROBO Global Healthcare Technology and Innovation Index (HTEC) can help diversify this risk because it is focused on long-term technological disruption. The index is also diversified across 80+ stocks, some of which can offset each other’s near-term fluctuations driven by extraordinary circumstances.