27th April 2021
“The call of the mothership was strong – why I returned to Consilium and the healthcare sector” by Jessica Hodgson
I was raised by Consilium Strategic Communications. When I joined the busy start-up in 2014 as a recovering journalist as one of their first employees, it was a steep learning curve.
The business has grown and thrived.
Consilium now has the largest independent healthcare sector focused strategic communications and IR advisory team in Europe also now with a team on the ground in the US. In 2019, I briefly flew the nest to focus on another sector (tech), but the call of the mothership, and the healthcare sector and its increasing convergence with tech, was strong.
I rejoined a month ago to find a business in rude health. If Consilium is a proxy for the global healthcare sector, then the sector outlook is good.
COVID-19 has reset life for everyone in so many ways. But for healthcare companies, the differences are stark. Healthcare is right at the top of the “Building back better” agenda for governments around the world. But what does “better” look like for healthcare industry and investment? And how do we, Consilium, and we, the healthcare industry, support its momentum?
There are many reasons to be cheerful about our industry now. Despite the much-publicised drift of some home-grown scientific unicorns to the US, there are plenty of biopharma floats planned.
Figures from the BIA show1 that COVID has already helped with one of the industry’s long-term goals: diversification of the investment base, with many new types of investor coming into our and other global healthcare companies.
And COVID-19 has also accelerated the mainstreaming of technologies and approaches. Technologies such as RNA vaccines, until recently considered too bleeding edge to be investable, have moved centre stage. Diagnostics have become a central plank of most government’s roadmaps out of the pandemic. Healthcare systems such as the UK NHS are working more closely and effectively with industry than ever before as a result of the pandemic.
Healthcare investment has become substantially de-risked. Previously seen as an asset-class only for those with nerves of steel, biotech is regarded as an increasingly safe investment.
So far so good. So far, so good. But life sciences have seen many false dawns. European long institutions, in particular, remain risk-averse. There is still a job to be done in convincing these institutions that they can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities biopharma offers.
The bigger challenge, both for biopharma and to some extent for Consilium, is to ensure that innovation becomes embedded in the culture of investment in the sector globally.
For decades, people have complained about the perceived mismatch between the scientific excellence produced in European institutions and the ability to commercialise this innovation and plough the value created back into European companies.
On the investment side, this remains a hurdle. The US and China have always had greater pools of capital and a greater willingness to embrace risk. European institutions have long been laggards in their approach to innovation. Examples such as Vaccitech’s decision to list in the US have hammered home, in this year of all years, how the combination of extreme risk-aversion and listings technicalities have historically scared some of our brightest hopes to other markets.
In the UK, the government is looking at the recommendations by Jonathan Hill to adapt listings rules, critically the recommendation to loosen the rules which currently prevent companies with dual class share structures listing on the FTSE-100. If adopted, this could be a game-changer for the healthcare sector, effectively allowing many high-growth companies entry to the FTSE main market and into the portfolios of mainstream investment funds.
The healthcare sector is a useful microcosm for a broader capital markets renaissance which needs to take place to incentivize investors to put innovation at the heart of their portfolio strategy. This isn’t only about healthcare and biotech: it holds true for so many innovation-driven industries where institutional risk-aversion has forced Europe to miss out on opportunities which have a huge financial and societal benefit.
We can’t change everything. Companies will rightly always want a choice of listing destinations and the flexibility to reach investors and partners all over the world.
But what we: the global biopharma ecosystem and Consilium Strategic Communications, can do, is to focus our expertise, our networks, and our elbow grease on showing the world why they can’t afford to miss out on the next revolution.
Consilium has a unique set of disciplines and advantages: the strongest team in the business, a focus on excellence in everything we do, with many decades of experience in fields including scientific practice, journalism, and investment advice. We are international, collegiate, determined and creative, but also frank and constructively critical when we need to be.
We have experience in everything from science to daily financial communications to IR and capital markets advisory to digital media and our clients range in size from high science university spin outs to global multinationals.
Over the past decade, it has also become clear to us given we map the market, that the healthcare sector can no longer be simply contained within the traditional pharma, biotech, medtech and hospital services sectors. New subsectors have been created, including Advanced Therapies, immunotherapies and generics. Meanwhile, the incursion of AI and data science companies into health, combined with thriving medical devices diagnostics, health tech and digi health companies have started to blur the lines between technology and healthcare.
COVID-19 has given the industry a once-in-a-generation opportunity to embrace this. It gave me a chance to reappraise the extraordinary opportunity this industry has. That’s why I wanted to rejoin the family, and it is great to be back.