Nicole Junkermann is an international entrepreneur and investor, and the founder of NJF Holdings, an international investment company with interests in venture capital, private equity, and real estate. Through NJF’s venture capital arm, NJF Capital, Nicole oversees a portfolio of over 30 start-ups across three continents, including in healthcare, FinTech, and deep tech.
I was a very early investor in both healthcare and biotech, particularly focusing on early-stage companies looking to utilise the latest advancements in technology to make much-needed breakthroughs in their fields. My focus when I first invested in this area was to support the companies on a mission to help people live longer and healthier lives; and this remains my focus today.
In the UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity recently published “The Health of the Nation – A strategy for healthier stronger life” in February this year. This report found that the UK must prepare for a very large increase in the number of cases of people in poor health over the next 15 years, especially in the older population. For example, in England, it is predicted that by 2035, 70% of people aged 55 and over are expected to be affected by obesity-related illnesses.
In the report, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Witty – now a household name in the country as he helps lead the UK government’s strategy to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic – highlights the importance of controlling four behaviours to reverse the trend of declining health in old age: smoking, unhealthy eating, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity. According to Witty, by tackling these four factors we could prevent up to 75% of new cases of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and 40% of the incidence of cancer, and potentially many cases of dementia.
However, many healthcare professionals are also turning to technology to offer solutions to improve longevity by tackling age-related medical illness. This is a relatively new field within healthcare technology, and I am pleased to have moved quickly to invest in two promising early-stage US-based companies both tackling age-related illnesses as a way of improving people’s longevity.
Introducing Gordian Biotech
Gordian Biotech is a great example of how companies are turning to the latest technology advancements – particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning – to help in the fight to prevent age-related illnesses.
The San Francisco-based company is on a mission to pioneer a novel discovery platform to radically improve drug development for complex diseases of aging. The company is redefining the latest screening method for age-related conditions by using the latest AI and machine learning technologies to process and analyse vast data sets and integrate the analysis with the latest in biological research.
Introducing Cambrian Biopharma
One of my more recent investments is Cambrian BioPharma, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company founded in 2019 and focused on developing therapies to prevent and cure age-related diseases with the help of AI.
Cambrian is based in New York City with operations across the US and Europe, and is focused on the basic biology of aging, a field known as ‘geroscience.’ I am delighted to be part of Cambrian’s development journey, and although still very early days, I look forward to hopefully seeing them successfully developing the therapies which will have a real benefit when tackling age-related diseases.
These two companies are great examples of the types of opportunities investors will be looking to as investment in healthcare start-ups continue to grow; ie companies who manage to effectively combine cutting-edge technology with leading scientific research. I’m looking forward to seeing this sector develop further in the coming months and years.