Leading healthcare investment firm BioScience Managers argues digital therapeutics will be the next big thing in healthcare – but Australia’s at risk of missing out.

Hearing the words “digital therapeutics” (or DTx) might make you think of of smartwatches, wellness apps or even telehealth but the concept goes even further.

“We look at DTx as ‘smart’ drugs, devices or diagnostics that sense, measure and collect clinically-relevant data, that then improves the product in some way, translating to better outcomes,” explains CEO Dr Graeme Crooke. “DTx can also track data over time and use the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimise treatment.”

One stock mentioned by Dr Crooke in a webinar held last week was private company Canary which has a sensor that can be integrated into knees during knee replacements.

The only ASX company mentioned as an investee in BioScience’s dedicated BSM portfolio was  Adherium (ASX:ADR) which has an app that can monitor and manage asthma treatment.

Another promising company mentioned in the webinar (but not a Bioscience investee) was Tali Digital (ASX:TD1) which is an edtech platform intended to help children with autism and attention disorders.


Why Australia could miss out on digital therapeutics revolution

However, Dr Crooke warns that Australia is well behind the US and at risk of missing out altogether.

In 2020, the US invested US$50 billion into health companies and nearly a third of this was into digital health. This figure is projected to be eclipsed in 2021 – albeit including SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies).

Australia’s most recent annual figures show only $220 million was invested into all healthcare sectors.

Dr Crooke labelled these figures “pretty sobering”.

“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that we need to invest more,” he told the webinar.

“Australia gets so many things right – we’ve got a great healthcare system, excellent education, world-class researchers, excellent telecoms infrastructure, entrepreneurial people and governments that recognise the importance of digital.

“We just don’t invest enough in our own ideas and expertise.

“We’re now seeing lots of exciting opportunities in DTx, but these companies are highly mobile, so we have to act quickly.

“Local innovations can’t and won’t stay in Australia if they’re not funded. They will have to move overseas, not to address global markets but just to get financed.

“In many cases these new technologies can serve global markets just as well from Australia as from elsewhere.”