Biotech entrepreneur Brian Leedman has a knack for spotting companies with potential to deliver ‘the next big thing’.

His track record speaks for itself. Leedman has been involved in launching firms like ResApp Health (ASX:RAP), and NeuroScientific Biopharmaceuticals (ASX:NSB) of which he is non-executive chairman.

Leedman founded ResApp in 2015 and it listed on the ASX in 2016. He is currently vice-president in corporate affairs and a former executive director of the company, which has a market cap of around $100m.

“My first entrepreneurial venture was in a company called Oncosil Medical (ASX:OSL) with a market cap now of $100 million. After that I co-founded Imugene (ASX:IMU), but I am no longer involved in them,” he said.

Leedman has now taken a new fledgling company under his wing, Nutritional Growth Solutions (NGS), which is considering listing on the ASX in the third quarter this year.

NGS has developed a clinically proven protein powder to boost the height of children in the lowest growth quartile, that is marketed as ‘Healthy Height’ in the US.

“This is novel in the nutraceutical space, a sector of biotech that deals with food [used as medicine],” Leedman said.

NGS protein powder grew out of clinical trials

The product grew out of clinical research at Israel’s Schneider Children’s Medical Centre into children in the lowest quartile for height. It was shown to increase child height by up to 30 per cent in clinical studies, including ones published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

“The product is completely natural, there is nothing manufactured,” Leedman said.

GlaxoSmithKline acquired the rights to market NGS’s protein powder in India, and the company used the circa A$14m of capital from this deal to grow.

The company went into online sales in the US, achieving significant growth, which took off in Q1 during the COVID-19 pandemic as children spent more time at home.

NGS has fulfilled its first order for China, and other markets are targeted for sales.

The company is considering listing its shares on the ASX in a $5-$7m IPO that will be used to significantly expand NGS products in new markets. Adelaide based Baker Young Limited managed the recent $1.5m Pre-IPO and will lead the proposed ASX listing under consideration.

Leedman sees tremendous growth from NGS putting its product on supermarket shelves and in pharmacies.

“I think that will translate into a significant lift in revenues that will benefit shareholders,” he said.

Nutraceuticals is worth billions of dollars

The nutraceutical sector is worth “multi-billions of dollars”, and includes products such as vitamins and health supplements,

The sector is currently the largest revenue source for Australian pharmacies and the largest producer in the sector is Nestle, Leedman said.

Some products in the sector promote their benefits with non-specific claims and use disclaimers, which make them difficult to check out scientifically in terms of their efficacy and benefits, he said.

NGS’s protein powder has been clinically trialled and is different in this respect.

“To my knowledge there has never been a clinical study performed on any of those [nutraceutical] products despite their claims,” he said.

NGS is not making claims that its protein powder will make children taller than they are otherwise destined to be, only that it will help children aged 3 to 12 in the lowest quartile to increase their rate of height growth without an increase in obesity.

Research has shown a link between the modern diet of children and their height, as some aspects of children’s diet is lacking in essential nutrients.

Bio-tech companies need a strong narrative to hook investors

Leedman said NGS’s science-based research and clinical studies make it a compelling story.

“In everything I do, I always look for the story. There has to be a compelling story about the technology and the business and why it is an investable company,” he said.

A bio-tech company’s business model must be compelling and able to be communicated in simple terms, otherwise investors can quickly lose interest.

“Healthcare is very much about the technology of what it is, and it has to be better than what is already there,” he said.

“ResApp Health is tremendously promotable because it is in digital healthcare, and it uses signatures in the sound of a cough to diagnose respiratory disease using only a smartphone,” he said.

Leedman also insists on putting his own money into bio-tech companies that he backs.

“I don’t promote companies that I don’t have my own hurt money in. That is my number one rule,” he said.

Telehealth and wearables are future trends in bio-tech sector

In terms of future trends, Leedman sees continued growth in digital healthcare such as wearable devices that monitor people’s vital signs and physiology, and telehealth.

“When the Apple watch was being launched that’s when I launched Resapp. I told my investors the largest corporation on the planet is moving into digital healthcare. That is where we want to be,” he said.

Telehealth has grown during the COVID-19 crisis, but it has its limitations in diagnosis.

ResApp has signed deals with two of the largest telehealth companies in Australia.

“That technology will only get better with algorithms and will be a big future trend. And with nutraceuticals we are talking about improvements in food and diet to stamp out diseases.”