As the world comes to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, institutions, policymakers and communities have been forced to respond and adjust.
What can we expect in a future post-pandemic? We asked our panel of experts in investment banking, scientific development, healthcare and executive leadership for their unique perspective.
What does our post-pandemic future look like?
‘Resilience, reopening, then recovery’
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will undoubtedly go down as one of the great healthcare and economic calamities in the history of the United States. Living through this period from the global epicentre of cases – the New York metropolitan area – has been extraordinarily challenging both physically and emotionally, as the local economies have been decimated and the citizens do their very best to maintain a semblance of normalcy and business as usual.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but remarkably the U.S. has only been dealing with this scourge since the first official case was cataloged less than four months ago by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now that spread, infection, and fatalities are trending downward, the United States is undergoing a “reopening” of the state and local economies, and we now look forward to what a post-pandemic world looks like.
In the U.S, our great hope is that a V-shaped economic recovery emerges while the infection rate continues to decline, allowing our society to return to normal. My suspicion, however, is that the economic recovery will be much slower than hoped – even if the U.S. does not encounter a boomerang outbreak of infection in the autumn or winter, leading to a second ‘lockdown’. Economic engines – like engines in industry – do not typically go from zero to full speed in the blink of an eye, and I believe that this will be the observation in this case as the U.S. gets back to work.
The economic performance of the U.S. in the back half of 2020 will be the most critical in our time. Will the U.S. recover and start to re-hire the 30 million people who lost their jobs, or will this bring in the beginning of a very long economic winter? Even a modest recovery later this year will go a long way towards getting everything back to normal in 12-18 months, and that is my prediction. The U.S. economy has shown great resilience in times of world crisis and it should with this situation as we return to a full employment model. In 12-18 months, life – both economic and health – should return to its prior state. We already see signs that business clients and investors at our New York investment bank, iQ Capital, are eager to get back to business and start their own economic engines. The U.S. “machine” is resilient and strong. It will recover and it will thrive.
Managing Director and CEO, iQ Capital
Expedited drug development could mean hope for patients
History, both past and recent, has shown that we are resilient as a species. As we continue to better understand the COVID-19 disease and its spread, we know that we will overcome this pandemic through breakthrough medicines, whether that be a vaccine or therapeutic product. Globally we’re seeing increased unified activity across the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to develop and deliver these urgent treatments, and this is promising not just for curbing COVID-19.
In fact, we are seeing an increase in early stage discovery and development activities in several unmet clinical needs, including cancer. This is in part due to the reactivation of efficient supply chains, with many of the international manufacturing organisations that support much of the early pre-clinical, clinical and commercial drug batches. While many clinical trials are still on hold, it is likely that our improved handle on the pandemic will allow for reactivation of clinical trial activity at both private and academic institutions. This delay has no doubt impacted the development of potential life-saving technologies that are desperately needed to treat constant threats, such as cancer. However, it could also mean that some regulatory aspects traditionally required for approval could potentially come into question in an effort to expedite much needed development endeavours.
Of course, this remains to be seen, but this increase in development activity, and thus the potential for more therapies to be approved in the future, signals hope not just for those impacted by COVID-19, but for a range of patients globally.
Dr. Jonathan Arambula
Vice President Research, OncoTEX Inc.
COVID-19 will transform healthcare delivery
The COVID-19 experience, more than any other event in our lifetime, highlights that healthcare is inextricably tied to the economy. On the one hand, healthy economies need healthy and productive populations to work, consume and invest so they can thrive. On the other hand, healthcare systems that enable people affordable access to medical care and support need robust health policy and sustainable budgets guiding adequate investment in infrastructure, therapeutic products and services.
It is within this context and at a time of self-isolation and social distancing that the opportunity exists to ‘reset’ healthcare on a couple of fronts. Firstly, the significant uptake and rapid expansion of telehealth services due to COVID-19 is likely to be the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic. Telephone and virtual medical consultations should, from a healthcare system perspective, enable greater efficiencies and be potentially more cost-effective, while for patients it means convenience and time saved from both travelling and waiting in medical surgeries. While telehealth services would not work where physical examination is needed, there are many instances where it could work well. Some examples include issuing repeat prescriptions for patients with stable chronic conditions, ordering pathology tests and referring patients to specialist healthcare providers.
A second upside is heightened community awareness of how to help stop the spread of COVID-19 disease from which people have been galvanised into practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing. These behaviours have been so firmly etched in our psyche from the COVID-19 experience that they may well continue long term to also help protect those not vaccinated against seasonal influenza, as well as against other infections transmitted through skin contact or coughing/sneezing. Hand sanitizer and Perspex screens newly erected in pharmacies and other public places could therefore be the new standard.
Against these opportunities, however, are likely increased budgetary challenges in funding medical innovations that either do not fit within existing reimbursement structures and/or lack a compelling evidence-based economic case for the asking price.
While it could be argued that these technologies should deliver both clinical and economic benefits, the reality is there may not be the political appetite to create new funding pathways nor to accept they represent value for money in the absence of actual proof.
Indeed, the economic fallout from the pandemic, in placing more pressure on already constrained healthcare budgets, could create a new dynamic with governments and other payers expecting proven-cost savings for innovative medical technologies seeking reimbursement. For the life sciences sector this, in turn, means greater investment in generating the necessary evidence to show these technologies improve patient health outcomes while also delivering cost savings. All of which points to a more ‘value-based healthcare’ approach to funding new technologies in a future brave new world demanding better outcomes at lower cost.
Chief Scientific Officer, CRC and Farmaforce
Investors look to life sciences for long-term value
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted investment markets across the globe, where the recovery is reliant on a vaccine becoming available to eradicate the virus. It’s a new reality which is having substantial impact on consumer willingness to spend, as the retail business continues to be affected.
The idea of near-zero, or even negative, interest rates has been embraced by policy makers from various governments across the globe. In fact, these governments are likely to adopt more aggressive policies such as further expansion of balance sheet, money supply and quantitative easing (QE), in order to stimulate the economic growth and manipulate the cost of money.
As economies worldwide head in the direction of a recession, businesses will be producing less, forcing them to cut down on costs. Typically, when this cycle occurs, we run into a great danger of spiralling into an economic depression. However, recent OECD data shows that many countries in the APAC region, including Australia, are likely to retain enough resilience for a quicker economic recovery than expected.
While the economic impact has not yet been reflected fully across the world, many nations will experience unemployment and bankruptcy, which will affect real estate and other traditional asset classes. Industry wise, capital will pursue defensive industries under the pandemic, such as healthcare, cloud services, remote office and online security. As such, more and more investors are looking to the healthcare and life science industry as a stable investment option during this COVID-19 pandemic period. In this new wave, we’re seeing that life science companies are proving to sustain the agility and resilience needed to stay at the forefront of value creation during this critical time.
Group Director, APAC
Resolute Focus in COVID-19 Fight
What does our post-pandemic future look like? At The iQ Group Global, our mission is to create a world free of disease. This is the future we strive for after COVID-19.
With global healthcare under unprecedented pressure, innovation must accelerate like never before. We know that accurate, real-time diagnostic tools are a future of global healthcare that we urgently need to accelerate into our current reality.
Throughout this pandemic, at The iQ Group Global we have remained resolute in our focus continuing our research and development programs for the Biosensor Diagnostic Platform as well as our Oncology portfolio, whilst remaining agile in creating unique investment opportunities in the life science sector. Our recent execution of our partnership with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University is a reflection of this focus, as is the launch of our new investment company, Ethical Bioscience Investments (EBI).
Dependent on the outcomes of our research with the Wyss Institute, we may be in a position to provide the global healthcare system with a point-of-care test for COVID-19 capable of detecting SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, with the ability to provide results in minutes. That we may be able to contribute to the way in which COVID-19, and other future viruses of pandemic scale, are diagnosed and contained is humbling as we execute on our core mission for patients globally.
What starts here changes the world.
Group Chief Executive Officer
Image/ Video Sources:
Image via Motorbiscuit New York City (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Video Feature via The Guardian (Drone footage shows Sydney deserted during coronavirus lockdown)