COVID-19 has drawn more investor interest to the health sector, particularly companies using genomics technology. It is shaping up as a hot area for venture capital firms in 2021, according to Stoic Venture Capital.
Genomics uses an organism’s whole DNA sequence to develop treatments such as vaccines or drugs. Stoic Venture Capital partner Geoff Waring said the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a greater need for investment in Australian genomics innovation.
Dr Waring said there was not enough Australian capability in the mRNA technology behind the fastest developed and highest efficacy vaccines, such as the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
“Venture capital firms see big potential for genomics technologies,” Dr Waring said.
“Example promising applications are mRNA vaccines for diseases such as malaria or HIV, precision patient-specific pharmaceuticals, or genetically engineered Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cells which had miraculous results for even late stage cancer.”
Australian companies spun out from research in genes and genetic data are developing promising solutions that could dramatically change health care in areas such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, he said.
“The incredible efficacy and safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines has driven increased interest into genomics research and the genetic diagnosis and treatment of disease,” Dr Waring said.
“Using a different angle, some startups are also using artificial intelligence to identify patterns giving insights into complex genetic conditions.”
Genomics has potential application across many areas. Ophthalmology has seen promising results in Exonate, a drug development company using genomics from Australian research out of University of NSW. In February 2021 they began their phase 1b/2 clinical trial in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
“Exonate’s drug modulates alternative mRNA splicing to address wet age related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of severe vision impairment for people older than 40,” Dr Waring said.
Dr Waring said investor interest in the health sector would continue to increase post-COVID-19, with venture capital firms providing critical funding to help these companies grow.
“They have to have the right value proposition, but start-ups translating genomics research into human trials are of interest,” Dr Waring said. “We are fortunate to have genomics-based research developed at leading organisations such as the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
“Venture capital firms that understand the work of university researchers and clinicians have the best access to and understanding of the most promising innovations in life sciences.”
About Stoic Venture Capital
Stoic Venture Capital provides financing for early-stage companies, particularly those arising from university research. Stoic is unconditionally registered as an Early-Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCLP) and takes a collaborative approach to investing in the highest potential companies. Atlas Advisors Australia AFOF is the major limited partner for the Fund. www.stoicvc.com.au