We love reading recaps from some of the wonderful OHT-ers who attend events we've partnered with. Check out a personal and reflective piece from Hailey Eustace and some very rich notes from Mark Duman if you're more of a notes person from Wired Health (#WIREDHealth @WiredUK @wiredukevents).
One HealthTech was kind enough to be giving away free tickets to attend Wired Health this year and wanted to make sure they went to people who are often underrepresented at these conferences. As a mother returning that very week to the workforce, I was chosen as part of that underrepresented group to add my voice to the others.
I went off on sick leave due to pregnancy complications and then maternity leave beginning in March 2020, and I returned at the end of March 2021. I had experienced the pandemic along with everyone else personally, but professionally it felt like I had been in a coma and woken up to a completely different world. Wired Health was the perfect way to help process what has happened over the past year in the health industry from a high level as well as to see what this momentous year has meant for us going forward. A few things stood out for me as takeaways, and while many were scientists speaking, it was often not the lessons learned of science that stayed with them, or will necessarily inform how the future will be.
First, with the seemingly lightning-fast creation of vaccines and drugs to fight Covid, these breakthroughs were borne out of years and years of research. Joanna Shields, CEO of Benevolent AI, described how her team was able to find and test a new treatment for Covid in a tiny fraction of the time it normally takes to discover and use drugs on patients, but it was possible because of the years of AI research for drug discovery that came before it. Same for BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin who spoke about the long years it took to become the “overnight” world-first mRNA-based vaccine.
Second, these scientific leaders often spoke about the human side of the pandemic and the breakthroughs experienced by collaboration or by the obstacles caused by politics to science. Science is a tool - what we do with it is what gives it meaning and power, or takes it away. Ugur Sahin of BioNTech highlighted the incredible feat of stopping the first wave of the virus that the world pulled off as a human triumph. But politics, and logistics, have also gotten in the way of delivering these vaccines. Mei Mei Hu, CEO of Covaxx, echoed this in her talk about peptide-based vaccines. She described the immense power of collaboration and acceleration during the pandemic, dubbing the effect “Covid time”, but also described how her company’ previous breakthrough vaccine for Hand, Foot and Mouth disease for animals was hampered by logistical difficulties and wariness of its novelty. She hopes that
Finally, what does the future look like? A couple of talks stood out for me on this. One was not actually a talk, but an excerpt of Wired’s new book by James Tempterton on the future of medicine. In it he discussed the power of data to create not better medicines for all, but better medicine for you (or me). It will be “one size fits one” medicine based on our genetics and health monitoring. EY’s Pamela Spence, Global Health Sciences & Wellness Industry Leader, discussed how the pandemic has shown the demand of consumers for faster, personalised, at-home healthcare experiences. Similar to Netflix, the future of healthcare is an easy and seamless service for home or remote monitoring and care, driven by consumer demand. The Wired Health EY Startup of the Year Showcase winner exhibited that (and also happens to be the company I work for!) - BIOS Health.
Covid has seemed like a completely unexpected and wholly different event from everyday life, and in many ways it was. But what Wired Health brought to light was that it accelerated or accentuated trends and research already happening. It is up to us now to take the best lessons and to continue to innovate to save lives at speed, as there are many more healthcare problems facing us to tackle.
A bit about Hailey
Hailey Eustace focuses on communications and strategic partnerships for startups. She has worked with some of the largest corporations and accelerators in the world on their tech and innovation communications and has advised startups just starting out on their journeys. Her background is in deeptech venture capital with the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a $485 million fund whose notable portfolio investments included Hanson Robotics - makers of Sophia the robot - and SpaceX. She is currently at BIOS, a startup which is pioneering the technology to automatically read and write on the nervous system to treat chronic diseases.