INVESTOR PERSPECTIVE: Philippe Peltier, Partner with Kurma Partners
Founded in July 2009, Kurma Partners is a key European player in the financing of Innovation in Healthcare and Biotechnology, from pre-seed to growth capital, notably through their biotech and diagnostics funds, as well as via strategic partnerships with prestigious European research and medical institutions. More information can be found at http://www.kurmapartners.com/en/
Coulter:Pulse recently talked to Philippe Peltier, Partner with Kurma Partners to learn more about his interest in AI…
- What excites you most about Artificial Intelligence for healthcare, Philippe?
One of the most promising advances for me is the progress in communication that enables medical devices to become smart, collect data and interpret this data through artificial intelligence. Our vision is to provide the very best care for patients, by accessing and interpreting more in-depth analysis of their medical data in this way. Within artificial intelligence our investment is focused in the main on medical devices that can provide monitoring of patients and access the most valuable information about their condition, treatment, responses and so forth, in order to provide them with the very best care possible. While I am also interested in other opportunities like blockchain, the global trends that are most exciting to me are smart medical device technologies that can communicate with the outside world.
A second application that interests me is how to provide the best care to any patient wherever they are in the world by giving them access to expert advice via data that has been normalised. With the help of artificial intelligence, top tier expertise can be made readily available to all, whatever the actual skill set of the attending physician may be. With access to a database with profiles matching their condition, patients can be advised on the best treatment available to ensure the best possible outcome for them. Any clinician anywhere will be able to provide the same expertise, wherever they are.
A third development that intrigues me is the power inherent in the ownership of personal data. Patients are empowered by the access they have to their own health data. They can now monetize all this health data to payers, to pharmaceutical companies and to med tech companies in exchange for some benefit. I think this is also important in encouraging patients to take more responsibility for their own health. It will change the way patients are treated today and enable them to be more “hands-on” in controlling their own treatment. No longer will they be at the mercy of Big Pharma or physicians telling them to put their trust in this or that medication. They will have the inside track on their own condition.
A fourth aspect of Artificial Intelligence that interests me is the way the industry will conduct clinical and medical device trials in future. All the data available will help to stratify the patients and get closer to achieving the goal of personalised medicine. At Kurma we know a lot about orphan diseases and even the big diseases will somehow be analogous with an orphan disease, once you can stratify the patients. It will be possible to know much more about the condition of the patients, thanks to the data collected. There will be more granularity around the diagnosis and the care we can provide patients. In other words, there will be a disease within a disease and a subset of patients, even where the disease has a global name. In dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, it will be possible to categorise patients with more and more precision and choose appropriate new treatments.
And finally, the trend which most excites me is the development of digital therapeutic applications, for example digital therapies in the neuroscience space. These therapies will cause significant disruption to healthcare as we know it. Studies have been conducted where oncology patients received supporting care from a digital nurse and those patients who had access to this digital support, gained nearly 6 months of survival compared to those without such support.
- What role is Kurma Partners playing in the field of AI for healthcare?
I manage an investment fund of 35 million euros, specialising in diagnostics and prevention. Our portfolio includes Med Tech companies making smart devices like Sensome or Damae Medical. The latter has developed a new and completely non-invasive modality able to provide digital etiopathology for skin conditions. A biopsy can be avoided when a melanoma is suspected, by employing a camera with the same quality image resolution as a biopsy would provide. Machine learning assists in providing a very thorough diagnosis to the care professionals based on the proprietary images that have been collected. Another smart medical device application enabled by Artificial Intelligence within the neurovascular space has been developed by Sensome. Their smart guidewire with innovative sensors provides precise information on blood clot composition in the brain, so the surgeon can then choose the best treatment for the patient. Feetme have developed a smart insole that identifies digital biomarkers in a person’s gait to help define patterns indicating neurodegenerative or neuromuscular disorders. We have also invested in Cardiologs, whose ECG solution powered by AI is used to detect arrhythmia. Their software is one of the first in the field to achieve FDA approval and a CE mark.
We are investing in the AI and digital space entirely via regulatory approaches and not investing in anything related to wellness applications.
- What triggered your interest in AI and how have you reached this point in your career?
I have always been interested in artificial intelligence and digital technologies. Formerly a venture capitalist in Life Sciences, I spent 18 years of my career with Auriga Partners, before joining Kurma Partners. Initially we were interested in IVD investment but then I met with some entrepreneurs in the digital technologies space which re-sparked my interest in this very exciting area. We decided to focus on building this segment in Europe. With access to high calibre people in Ivy League institutions, we began to move into the space in France. Our Technology Transfer investment strategy continues to build successful networks across Europe, in Belgium, the UK, Denmark and Spain.
- And how important is finding the right talent to your success in driving your business towards its goals?
That is an excellent question. Seven billion dollars of venture capital are being invested in the digital health space and most of the expertise in the field is in the US, where the segment is in its middle innings, to use a term from baseball! In the digital health space in the US they include many associated areas like Wellness, the new kind of payers emerging in the space and some Fintech as well. The market is also completely differently structured from the one in Europe. They do not have the challenges we face in Europe, where each healthcare system is different from one country to another and some are publicly funded. The more mature market in the US therefore has access to the most experienced people in these sorts of technologies. In Europe I think we are learning as we go along and within my portfolio most of the leaders are technological engineers, who come out of academia with little understanding of regulation, for instance. To achieve new product approval in such a new field needs the sort of experience to be found in the Pharma or Med Tech sector. The shortage of these skills and expertise in Europe is a major risk for us. We need a balance of engineers, data scientists and people with healthcare experience.
It is difficult even to put one’s finger on the exact profile that is optimal. Some who come from the Pharma industry are very inflexible in their mindset and not necessarily open to new business models or ways of thinking. A balance is needed of innovative new generation data scientists and those who understand how to comply in this very regulated space. It is certainly a challenge to find and compete for people with a good blend of crossover skills in tech and life science.
The Life Sciences industry could miss a great opportunity in digital health if they don’t learn to adapt. They are under all sorts of pressures, from the payers in the US, from Google, Apple and other tech giants. Apple are for instance working on putting glucose monitoring into their watch, putting into the hands of the consumer a medical grade device. These tech giants are entering the healthcare space via patients and consumers and this sort of disruption is the beginning of the end for the industry as we know it.