News & Insights

The digital you

Investors in our Ravenscroft strategies will know that healthcare and innovation have been long-term thematic investments for our portfolios. As investment managers, we’re always on the lookout for interesting developments, and recently an article in New Scientist magazine caught my eye. Imagine a world where we can build a virtual “you” in which doctors can predict your health issues… Could this be the ultimate in personalised medicine?

Imagine a future where you can be replicated cell by cell, creating “you” in your entirety, using only a sophisticated computer model. This is the metaverse at its very best. Doctors would be able to use the digital you to work out how you may respond to certain procedures or drugs.

For me, this makes me think of the children’s game Operation. For those that may not be familiar with the game, Operation consists of an ‘operating table’ and incorporates elements of the old-fashioned electrified wire loop game. Testing player’s hand-eye coordination, if you fail to remove a body part cleanly the game makes a “buzzing” sound and you fail the operation.

Unlike the game, this digital you would remove any chance of failure. Doctors can even use this technology to forecast potential health issues, taking into account your lifestyle and how this impacts you as you age – this is the ultimate in personal medicine.
Right here, right now this is not possible, but it is something that cutting-edge innovators are working on. Biomedical science strives to move from a largely descriptive experimental science to one that uses maths to achieve the kind of predictive power and deeper understanding that could revolutionise medicine.

Digital twins (virtual models designed to accurately reflect physical objects) are already used throughout our lives. This is a concept we discussed in a presentation back March 2019, where we introduced the Pictet Global Environmental Opportunities Fund and spoke about a company called Ansys - a global leader in 3D simulation software and just one of the companies that makes digital twins.

One of Ansys’ customers was Dyson – the man who bought you the bag-less hoover and, more recently, hairdryers, as well as many other innovative day-to-day products. It took Dyson 5,000 physical prototypes to come up with his first vacuum cleaner – imagine the energy, water, materials, and waste this required in order for them to come up with their first product. Nowadays Dyson simulates all their products on Ansys software, so minimal prototypes are produced.

Now the human body is far more complex than a bag-less hoover. Imagine all the parts that come together to make us work – trillions of cells building organs and tissues, let alone the three billion letters of your genome!

So how do we progress? Well, data is the key. But we then need to convert this data into mathematical understanding. This might sound simple, but in reality it is hugely complex. This pushes not only medicine to its limits but also the computers that are involved.

Whilst building an entire human may be decades away, some headway has been made. Scientists have already built a whole heart, which not only sheds light on conditions such as arrhythmias and heart failure but also allows us to start tailoring treatment to individual patients. Researchers are also starting to build other body parts such as the lungs and brain.

Investment into the healthcare and innovation spaces can help facilitate this progress and we feel these are long-term themes that offer exciting opportunities – opportunities that are only limited by our lack of imagination.

If you’d like to access these themes, there are multiple Ravenscroft funds with holdings in these spaces (for example Sanlam Global Artificial Intelligence, RobecoSam Smart Materials, Polar Healthcare and Polar Biotechnology in our Balanced, Growth and Global Solutions funds*). Please contact us if you would like further information on our funds or if you would like to discuss your investment options.

*These funds are only available to offshore investors and are not available to UK investors.