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As the fifteenth edition of the Tech Tour Growth Health Programme is well underway, we had the privilege of speaking with Tanja Dowe, Vice President of the Selection Panel, and Fredrik Debong, President of Growth Health.

 

Tanja is the Managing Director of Angelini Ventures S.p.A. A biochemical engineer turned entrepreneur, transaction and strategy consultant – and now investor – Tanja has collaborated with approximately 90 companies throughout her career in one capacity or other, spanning biotech, MedTech, and digital health. There’s not much she hasn’t seen.

 

Fredrik is a serial entrepreneur in MedTech and fintech with two successful exits (mysugr.com and pioneers.io). He continues to operate, while stepping into more strategic roles. Having lived with type 1 diabetes for 40 years, Fredrik has made 25 angel investments, mainly in MedTech and digital therapeutics, with a primary focus on diabetes.

 

Tanja and Frederik shared their insights on the future of MedTech and digital health, the current landscape of European venture capital, and the opportunities and challenges facing the sector.

What will the future look like, based on rising trends and developing technologies in MedTech and Digital Health?

Tanja: We will access all our healthcare needs digitally first. Our health conditions will be monitored by connected devices and continuously monitoring wearables. Algorithms will provide valuable insights to both patients and their care teams. Treatment selections will be data-driven, and patients will need to take more accountability for their health, following preventive steps, treatments, and their digital support programs.

 

Fredrik: In the short term, the field is somewhat down, due to the significant setbacks experienced over the past year (e.g., Babylon, Teladoc) and the post-COVID normalization. The maturation of the public reimbursement system for digital therapeutic apps in Germany is ongoing, with a few clear winners emerging—often those achieving positive economics through widespread adoption. I hope to see some of the media gaps abolished and for future players to bridge these gaps from the start.

How active are European VCs and entrepreneurs in Digital Health and MedTech?

Tanja: In the years leading up to 2021, many investors focused their attention on digital health, at the expense of MedTech. Now, we are seeing a healthy return to MedTech and an appreciation for its proven business models. However, the emphasis is on connected MedTech: medical devices with integrated digital, data, and AI elements- not just as separate software products. Additionally, European entrepreneurs are building hybrid care platforms that combine digital platforms with telehealth or brick-and-mortar care teams.

Investors today are generally more cautious and conduct more thorough due diligence. However, there is still plenty of capital available, making the best deals highly competitive. European investors tend to focus on earlier stages, while US investors and global players play a key role in growth stages.

Fredrik: The angel community is active but more cautious. Our early-stage investors remain as active as ever, though ticket sizes have shrunk a bit, and the focus of their investments has matured. It seems like we're in another cycle of development, regarding funding stages — every five years or so, what used to be the A round becomes the new Seed round.

 

At the growth stage, it’s mainly US investors who are active, bringing larger funds, more capacity, and greater impact. Since the strategy often involves expanding beyond the EU, this approach makes strategic sense for most.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in the sector over the next five years?

Tanja: Reorganisations of primary healthcare and chronic condition management present massive opportunities. With a serious shortage of doctors and nurses looming in the years to come, we need to ensure that we can still provide high-quality care. This will be achieved through digitally-enhanced care models. As individuals are increasingly taking responsibility for their own health, there is significant potential for home-based devices, whether for treatment or monitoring. While non-invasive devices have not been favoured by incumbents in the past, there is a growing market need for them – this is a great space for startups. Incumbents will eventually follow suit.

 

Fredrik: There are several opportunities and challenges in the current landscape. One major opportunity is making the best use of AI to improve internal processes or products, whether in digital health or MedTech. The regulatory field for AI is not yet very optimistic, but it is expected to improve over time in the US. However, I do not anticipate this to be the major field of impact for deployed AI/ML models in patient-facing products in the near future.

 

Another opportunity lies in the increasing standardisation of public reimbursement for digital therapeutics across more markets. This would enable digital therapeutics companies to address more markets with their products and business models. A unified method for reimbursement across the EU would significantly benefit our region, transforming it into a highly dynamic market. The acceptance of hybrid care models is also rising, providing further opportunities for growth. Additionally, it has become easier to create new products and companies with the help of education, skill, and the ability to leverage modern tools and technologies. This democratisation of the ability to craft products and companies has reached a new level.

 

However, there are also several challenges to consider. There is uncertainty regarding how regulatory and public reimbursement models will evolve. Uneducated policymakers could potentially harm AI companies. Additionally, the proliferation of venture capital funds, many of which are quite similar, makes it difficult for limited partners to identify the best opportunities. Lastly, economic issues caused by wars and conflicts are never good for our field and can have adverse effects on the industry.

This year marks the 15th edition of the Tech Tour Growth Health event. Can you highlight a couple of milestones from the last 15 years in MedTech and Digital Health?

Tanja: In the context of digital health, it is essential to mention COVID-19. The rapid transition to telehealth by healthcare providers and the swift adoption of reimbursement policies by payers were remarkable. Additionally, numerous providers began using digital companions to monitor their patients remotely within weeks.

 

I primarily invest in digital health and connected devices, making it challenging for me to reflect on the MedTech landscape of 15 years ago. I am excited about the advances in neurostimulation, continuous monitoring with tools such as CGMs, and the progress in reimbursement for AI-assisted medical image analysis and AI-pathology.

What is your motivation to become the President/VP of this edition of TT Growth Health?

Tanja: I love to work with entrepreneurs and I’m passionate about solving our healthcare problems through new solutions and technologies. Tech Tour Growth Health offers a unique opportunity to see the full landscape of what startups are working on in Europe today.

 

Fredrik: It's definitely an honour to help shape the program at one of the most esteemed investment events in the region, but I must admit that I do not feel entirely up to the task! In my role, I wish to give the event a bit more depth regarding current topics, to stand out in comparison with other events we visit. I believe we achieve this with a focus on regulations and AI, as well as making the format of our sessions more personal.

What is an interesting story that impacted your vision on the sector?

Tanja: There are so many of them. The most important being my father who participated in a clinical trial for a digital health solution in heart health. He was a cardiovascular surgeon who wondered what I was so excited about in digital health, but after participating in that clinical trial, at the age of 80, he converted to a digital health believer. His feedback about the quality of the digitally-enhanced treatment journey from a patient’s perspective motivates me every day.

 

Fredrik: Those of us who live with conditions are not just able, but also capable, of changing our therapies and the day-to-day experience of living with our diseases. These individuals are best equipped to understand and focus on the impact of their conditions. Our role as investors, advisors, and board members is to guide and support them in making the most of these changes.

 

 

The Tech Tour Growth Health 2024 Programme culminates in an event which will take place on 9-11 September 2024 in Lausanne. It will bring together top game-changing entrepreneurs in HealthTech, investors, and experts to shape the future of digital health. Secure your spot HERE.