Peter Michaelis, Sustainable Investment Team for Liontrust
Pharmaceutical companies are clearly at the centre of public attention at present, with news on vaccines encouraging markets and the global population to look forward to a better 2021.
Beyond the urgent efforts against Covid-19, ongoing improvement in healthcare is vital for a more sustainable future, and the sector’s ability to innovate in order to solve medical needs is what attracts us as investors. We continue to see huge advances in technology across areas such as gene editing and DNA sequencing and these are revolutionising how we think about the concept of treatment. The traditional model has a large element of trial and error, with people seeking help when they feel ill and hoping whatever drug or procedure prescribed is effective – but this intervention often proves too late. In contrast, we are moving towards a more personalised system where we can understand how someone’s genetics make them vulnerable to certain diseases, and this is opening up new ways to counter conditions such as cancer, dementia and Parkinson’s.
Healthcare innovation has had a massive impact on people’s lives and will continue to do so: a child born at the start of the 20th century had a one in three chance of not reaching their fifth birthday, whereas that figure has thankfully now improved to one in 25 globally (and one in 250 across most of Europe). It is exciting to consider what further advances the coming decades may bring.