With America vaccinating 2 million a day, here are 3 ASX medtechs that will benefit as lockdowns are lifted
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After a botched coronavirus response that resulted in half a million deaths, America is finally doing something right on the COVID-19 front.
The United States has been vaccinating an average of 2.15 million people per day in recent days, according to the New York Times, with 61.1 million Americans having received at least one jab and 32.1 million fully inoculated – 12.6 per cent of the adult population.
While lifting restrictions remains controversial, more and more states are doing it – potentially benefitting a number of ASX-listed medical technology companies that saw their US businesses disrupted as the pandemic hit.
Aroa Biosurgery (ASX:ARX) is an Auckland-based soft tissue reconstruction device company. It sells five approved products derived from sheep guts designed to aid healing after surgeries and in chronic wounds such as ulcers and hernias, products that have been used in four million procedures to date.
Aroa’s half-year revenue for the six months to September 30 was down 10 per cent to $NZ9 million ($8.4 million) as US hospitals postponed elective operations to deal with the pandemic, but chief executive and founder Brian Ward says things are bouncing back.
“Things are definitely improving — there was that peak in January, and since January, you’ve seen vaccinations come online, you’ve seen admissions, death rates, positive tests declining. On the back of that, you can start to see that downward trend,” he told Stockhead recently.
The company’s entire office in San Diego, which has about eight or 10 staff, has already been fully vaccinated, while the VP of commercials in Forth Worth, Texas, has reported that innoculation efforts there include a stadium site with 15 lanes of drive-through jabs, Ward said.
“They are absolutely going for it, which is great,” he said.
There are still constraints with US hospitals, which still face staffing issues and operating room and bed shortages, but the trend bodes well for the second half of the year and beyond, Ward said.
There’s a backlog of 12 to 24 months of elective surgeries in the United States, so that will give the company tailwinds for a good length of time, Ward said.
To take advantage, Aroa last month dissolved a joint venture sales team it had formed with US wound dressing company Hydrofera in favour of its own dedicated salesforce.
“That’s a change that will be in place over the next month or so, and we think that’s going to bring a lot more focus to our efforts there, and be positive for the company as well,” Ward said. “I think those two things are huge.”
Founded by a dentist, Oventus Medical (ASX:OVN) is a Brisbane-based company working to commercialise a range of mouthguard-type medical devices that treat obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring.
“So, my father always taught me timing’s everything, and my timing was shit-as, because I decided to launch a respiratory device and set up many clinics within respiratory facilities and sleep facilities as a path to market, literally five months before the world’s greatest respiratory pandemic hit,” founder and managing director Dr Chris Hart told Stockhead with a regretful chuckle.
“We went from rolling out three or four clinics a month and showing good traction, and overnight, every site bar two shut down,” he said.
Within two weeks, the company realised that the sleep physicians and respiratory physicians and pulmonologists were embracing telehealth to treat patients.
“We still needed to see the patients physically to treat them, but we were able to continue to engage with the patients to work them up for therapy, check their medical, dental histories, verify their insurance, pre-authorise payments, go through the pockets and whatnot, so we could come off the shutdown with a good revenue stream.”
As it became clear that the pandemic was not ending anytime soon, Oventus developed an impression kit that it could ship to a patient’s home to measure their mouth for a fitting, aided by a dentist under contract with Oventus who guides the patient via video conference.
Once they receive the O2Vent mouthguard the patient then gets another video consultation to teach them how to use it, and as well as a finger sensor to measure their sleep for a few days, so their physician can be sure it is working.
Dr Hart said a patient journey that used to take about 20 different steps, with people bouncing from clinic to clinic, is now “totally virtual, everything is done at the click of a mouse.”
Despite the success of this virtual model, Oventus is still dependent on patient flow from referring facilities, Dr Hart said. But in North America, there’s been a sharp drop in patients seeking any type of care, even serious disorders like cancer or lung disease.
“There’s been a 50 to 60 per cent drop in patient flow across North America to sleep facilities. And so even with that massive drop, we’ve still managed to grow well through that experience,” he said. (Oventus on February 22 announced it had booked $550,232 in revenue over the six months to December 31, up 192 per cent from a year ago.)
“So let’s say it goes back to 80 per cent (of normal patient flow) you multiple that out and it goes to very strong growth moving forward,” Dr Hart said.
Nanosonics (ASX:NAN) is commercialising what it describes as a “breakthrough” method of disinfecting ultrasound probes, which if not cleaned correctly can put patients at risk of developing hospital-acquired infections.
The Sydney-based company announced last month its revenue for the six months to December 31 was down 11 per cent to $43.1 million, mostly due to reduced purchases by major customer and distribution partner GE Healthcare as a result of the pandemic.
But revenue increased 48 per cent in the second quarter, compared to the first quarter, as GE resumed purchases of capital equipment.
“With COVID-19 vaccination programs underway, the company is optimistic that overall market conditions, in particular access to hospitals, are likely to continue to improve,” said chief executive and president Michael Kavanagh.
The company’s global installed base also grew 12 per cent in the last 12 months, and Nanosonics is assessing strategic acquisition opportunities.
The company had $87.9 million in cash as of December 31, compared to $91.8 million six months earlier, and negligible debt – giving it a strong foundation for continued investment in growth, Nanosonics said.
Aroa, Oventus and Nanosonics shares