Artificial intelligence is transforming the healthcare sector and presenting “myriad opportunities for investment”, said Tim Day, co-manager of The Sanlam Artificial Intelligence Fund.
Day said he saw an important role for the application of AI across the healthcare sector covering diagnosis, treatment, drug discovery and administration.
In the area of diagnostics, medical imaging is being transformed with the application of AI – image enhancement and automated labelling can accelerate the process and improve accuracy and critically free up scarce specialist resources – as there is a shortage of radiologists.
He added: “In treatment we see the application of robotic surgical platforms, such as the da Vinci Surgical System from Intuitive Surgical. Over 10 million procedures have been performed worldwide by surgeons using the platform.
“We also see innovation in areas such as diabetes – managing diabetes is being transformed by the use of continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), replacing old finger prick tests.”
Drug discovery is also a massive area of opportunity, Day said. “Given that on average it takes over 10 years to get a drug from phase 1 to regulatory approval and costs over $1bn, the application of AI to transform tasks such as molecule design and testing - Alphabet’s DeepMind solving protein folding is a massive advance here."
“Finally the more mundane area of healthcare administration, which is beset with complexity and manual tasks, the application of robotic process automation and machine learning can greatly improve efficiency and accuracy.”
The managers cite DeepMind’s AlphaFold research into the way proteins fold in the human body as an example of the extraordinary progress that has taken place because of AI.
Chris Ford, co-manager of the five-year-old fund, said: “The findings of this research have huge implications for healthcare and other big problems facing humans; with new possibilities for addressing some of the challenges.”
Day and Ford joined Sanlam Investments in February 2021 from what is now Tilney, Smith & Williamson and report the fund has grown from £628m to £715.5m since then.
The objective of the fund, which was previously owned by Tilney, Smith and Williamson under another name, is to identify beneficiaries of the deployment of artificial intelligence globally.
Ford said the changes seen in artificial intelligence over the past five years had been “immense”.
Ford added: “Things that people called ‘pipe dreams’ when we launched the fund in 2017 are now happening. The changes have been utterly extraordinary. What was impossible is now possible.”
Day said: “We are using AI to effectively triage our ideas, check the veracity of our hypotheses and automate our processes. We’ve had this tool for five years, and we know how to maximise its effectiveness. It’s incredibly powerful – and a real advantage for us.”