AXA arm beefs up life sciences investments with $500m push

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The investment arm of multinational insurance company AXA has launched a new €440 million ($500 million) drive to provide private equity investments in healthcare companies that deepens its interest in the life sciences sector.

Until now, AXA Investment Managers has been focused more on the delivery end of health care – health centres and private hospitals, for example – but the new strategy is directed at four key areas, including biopharma, vaccines, medical devices and diagnostics companies.

Run by AXA IM's alternative investments group (AXA IM Alts), the push will be accompanied by two new appointments – Curt LaBelle and Zina Affas Besse – and will focus on healthcare companies that are in late-clinical or early commercial stages of development.

The group will be focusing on companies that are working on products and services that can be profitably delivered "at accessible price points for global markets", and says it will be looking particularly for opportunities that align with United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs include ensuring healthy lives and promotion of wellbeing for all people at all ages, with a particular focus on reproductive, maternal and child health and scaling up investment in universal health coverage.

Global healthcare spending grew 30% faster than global GDP from 2010 to 2017, with the rate twice as fast in middle income versus high income economies, said AXA IM Alts.

Last year, AXA IM Alts said its 2022 strategy would include a greater focus on life sciences, including almost €2 billion earmarked for specialist laboratory space and offices in Europe. It is a major backer of Kadans, one of the groups behind the recently-announced Canary Wharf life sciences hub in east London.

Alexandre Martin-Min, managing partner at AXA IM Alts, said the move has been made after the investment group "observed a large funding gap when it comes to certain areas within private equity markets" in global healthcare.

Curt LaBelle and Zina Affas Besse – who will serve as head and deputy head respectively of the healthcare private equity group – each have more than 20 years of experience in investing, advising, and operating in healthcare start-ups, including running Global Health Investment Advisors (GHIA).