December 6, 2022

Imagining and backing the future of health

By
Mischa Vaughn

Nothing affects our day-to-day more than our health. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic made this clear on a massive scale. Others have had deeply personal experiences with managing chronic pain, caring for aging parents, or surviving near-death encounters.  

While the complexity of healthcare — from regulation and scrutiny to real-world effects — scares many investors off, we believe there’s no market larger or more impactful. As a result, we’ve invested in transformational health companies for more than a decade and will continue to do so. Healthcare accounts for roughly 20% of US GDP and its share is growing in economies around the world. 

Felicis backs ambitious founders across sectors, stages, and geographies. We invest in many different areas from one fund, aiming to curate the highest density of uncorrelated outlier companies.

Our diverse investing approach enables us to take bolder bets on founders shaping the future of health. We can focus on what happens if everything goes right rather than thinking about protecting against the downside. We take a first principles approach, unencumbered by the skepticism and myopia that can often come from a narrow investment frame.

This allowed us to back Kristen Fortney, a PhD from Toronto, when her idea for BioAge was scribbled on the back of a proverbial napkin. Instead of focusing on the dominant paradigm of lifespan, Kristen envisioned the concept of healthspan: an increased quality of life well into old-age. She and her team would go on to create therapies targeting immune, muscle, and brain aging. Their platform combining data, technology, and science stems from this vision of improving human healthspan — a vision that other investors were afraid to back at first.     

Our investing approach also led us to be the first institutional backers of Prenuvo, creators of a faster, better full-body MRI that uses diagnostic AI to detect 500+ cancers and diseases. A Prenuvo scan feels like science fiction becoming reality. In the movie Elysium, a capsule scans people’s bodies and then instantly diagnoses and heals them. The process takes minutes, but changes people’s lives forever. This was the promising image that came up in Felicis founder Aydin Senkut’s mind when he first experienced the Prenuvo scanner. 

A Prenuvo scanner.

Aydin had previously backed Prenuvo co-founder and CEO, Andrew Lacy, when he built Tapulous, a software company and video game publisher. While some investors might not have been willing to bet on founders without decades of experience in science or healthcare technology, our approach and lessons from backing hundreds of companies allowed us to lean in and lead Prenuvo’s $70M Series A round, based on the strength and passion of Andrew and his co-founder, Dr. Raj Attariwala.

We believe that building the future of health requires investing beyond well-known areas like drug discovery and the patient experience. Some examples from the Felicis portfolio include:

  • Clear Labs (Felicis backed in 2015) invented ways to detect foodborne pathogens at production facilities and now helps more than 50% of state public health labs with rapid detection of COVID-19 variants. 
  • Supplant (Felicis backed in 2018) created a new sugar alternative with a lower glycemic response, which we believe can help reverse the obesity epidemic.
  • Modern Health (Felicis backed in 2020) is a platform that makes it easier for companies to offer mental health benefits to their employees.
  • Midi (Felicis backed in 2022) a virtual care clinic for women in midlife dealing with menopause. Read more about why we invested in Midi.

In 2021, we decided to offer every Felicis team member a complimentary Prenuvo scan. The scan of one team member found an abnormality (despite them having no preexisting symptoms) and potentially saved a life. We’ve received several heartwarming stories from friends, family, and even service providers about how Prenuvo helped flag potentially life-threatening issues early. Seeing this impact so close to home has made us even more resolute in backing the most transformative healthcare companies.

We envision a world where the future of healthcare will resemble the ambitious ideas out of science fiction much more than it does now.

  • We think there will be large innovations in quantified health; we will have better indications before people get sick such as with food and continuous glucose monitoring. 
  • We think the nature of annual checkups will change, to be more holistic and proactive, and will include full color scans and mental health check-ins.
  • In the future, the same technologies we use for medical imaging may be used to start treating minor cancers on the spot. 
  • We think patients will not just have easy access to their health data, but also the ability to take it from one provider to another.
  • More innovation and discoveries will improve human health span so people will be less fragile — we’ll live longer and age less with boosted immune systems.
  • We will start conquering the next frontier: our brains. This will revolutionize how we fight neurodegenerative diseases and other aging related decay like dementia.

As a result, we believe health companies will be much larger in the future than they are today. To us the future of health looks bright and is immersed with innovative technology and grand possibilities.

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