Life science investors at the Ally Bridge Group (ABG) have led three US investments in April 2020 into commercial-stage companies amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
ABG led investments of $25m into Vida Health, $60m into Rapid Micro Biosystems and $66m into Pulmonx. All of the companies operate in the medtech space and have USPs that could become increasingly relevant as the global crisis continues.
In a statement, ABG founder and CEO Frank Yu said: “These three new investments highlight ABG’s focus on addressing some of the fundamental healthcare challenges exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Vida Health makes an all-in-one virtual care platform for managing polychromic physical and behavioural conditions. These include pre-diabetes, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression and anxiety.
The service uses machine learning to personalise each person’s treatment, as well as a human element through contact with real-life health coaches and therapists. It is delivered through a mobile app, which supports the user in managing, preventing or reversing chronic conditions.
Vida intends to use the funds to continue expanding its operations and business reach.
Chronic underlying conditions like the ones Vida Health caters to can make a person more likely to experience severe symptoms or die from Covid-19. Diabetes, for example, has been tied to a quarter of Covid-19 deaths in English hospitals.
While mental health issues like depression and anxiety are not a physiological risk for severe Covid-19 in isolation, many patients may find their symptoms worsen as lockdown measures continue.
Rapid Micro Biosystems
Rapid Micro Biosystems has, alongside the $60m equity investment led by ABG, raised a grand total of $120m to meet growing demand for its automated microbial detection platform, as well as support new product development in relation to the pandemic.
Currently used by a majority of the top 20 global biopharmaceutical companies, the Growth Direct platform is designed to automate the majority of standard microbial tests in the clinical manufacturing process. This is intended to replace time- and labour-intensive manual QC processes and deliver results in half the time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the ability of the platform to shorten the supply chain for critical drugs and vaccines, while also allowing biopharmaceutical companies to operate their facilities with reduced staff due to pandemic-related restrictions.
Yu said: “We expect to see strong adoption of the company’s products, as increasing numbers of biopharmaceutical companies seek to take advantage of leading-edge technologies to support manufacturing speed and capacity improvements, as well as ensuring quality to satisfy increasingly stringent regulatory requirements.”
Pulmonx has developed the Zephyr Valve System, a minimally invasive treatment for patients with emphysema. This irreversible lung disease weakens and eventually breaks the alveoli of the lungs over time, and is a significant risk factor for severe Covid-19 complications.
Zephyr is placed in the airways to block a diseased part of the lung and reduce hyperinflation during a bronchoscopy procedure. It helps the healthier parts of the lungs to expand and lift pressure from the diaphragm, decreasing the shortness of breath experienced by patients with the condition.
Treatment options are limited for people with emphysema who do not respond to medication. Lung volume reduction or lung transplant isn’t always appropriate, but the Zephyr offers an efficient non-invasive alternative.
The $66m in funding represents something of a bounce-back for Pulmonx, coming through just a little over a month after the company had to delay its $86m IPO due to the negative impact of Covid-19 on the market.
The firm will use the money to continue expanding its commercial footprint.