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Sohn Hearts and Minds Conference 2022
Foundation Insight / Hearts and Minds
29 Nov 2022
Sohn 2022 0499 Credit Alastair Bett

Investing in healthier futures

The Sohn Hearts and Minds investment conference was successfully held this November in Hobart, Tasmania. The first in-person conference since 2019! Sohn brings together some of the world’s best investors to share their insights and stock recommendations, as well as a wide range of thought leaders to ensure it is a day to remember.

Notably, Andrew Denton’s interview with David Walsh, the founder and funder of MONA (Museum of Old & New Art), had the crowd of investors sitting on the edge of their seats with his story of wealth creation and giving to the arts. An eccentric figure to say the very least.

For TDM, our involvement with Sohn is born out of its connection to the Hearts and Minds listed investment company HM1, which is listed on ASX.

HM1 has a combined objective of providing access to retail investors with the highest conviction ideas from Australia’s leading fund managers, including TDM Growth Partners, whilst also supporting Australian medical research.

HM1 donated $12.6 million to medical research this last financial year and had donated over $40 million since inception.

How does HM1 allow for such large annual donations?

Two thirds of the HM1 portfolio is managed individually by six core fund managers, of which TDM Growth Partners is one of them. As usual with listed investment companies, the manager of that fund charges an annual management fee to the investors in the fund. In the case of HM1, the management fee is charged, but not collected by managers, instead electing to donate it to fund medical research of their choice. In TDM’s case, this is done via the TDM Foundation.

In making our decisions of which medical research to support, we apply a very simple framework.

We aim to:

• Work with brilliant researchers and organisations. It’s as simple as that. Brilliant for us is based both on the quality of their idea and an assessment of the institute they are aligned to.

• Support early-stage research or research that might not yet be able to attract funding through government grants.

• Assess the research work based on the potential impact it can have to improve patient outcomes. We are less focused on track record as the criteria, and more about the quality of the research idea.

To say we are spoilt for choice is an understatement! The quality of Australia’s medical research is truly world class, which makes narrowing down the field a tough job.

Get to know our medical research partners

As a managing partner over the past 18 months, we have funded four exceptional research projects which focus on a range of disease areas. All four researcher groups have made strong progress with their work, despite the impacts of COVID which at times meant restricted access to labs and research materials and limited onsite collaboration time.

Research Institute: WEHI
Solution: Platform for improved CAR-T cancer treatment

Procar Group Min (1)

What if there was a cancer treatment that 50% of the time cured you but the other 50% caused further illness or even death? This is the decision facing patients who are considering CAR-T Cell therapy as a cancer treatment.

CAR-T cell therapy replaces T-cells into the blood stream as modified CAR-T cells. These new CAR-T cells identify and destroy cancer cells. While highly effective, its application has historically been limited due to extreme side-effects.

Nearly half of all patients undergoing CAR-T therapy experience life threatening toxic side effects. Finding a safer option for this technology could be the answer to helping cure previously incurable cancers.

WEHI’s Associate Professors Matthew and Melissa Call’s, in collaboration with molecular design experts at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, are developing technology to finetune this CAR-T cell therapy to decrease the chance of adverse side-effects, increase the ability for the CAR-T cells to kill the cancer cells, and increase the number of cancers that can be treated by CAR-T.

“Our vision is that this platform, which we call “programmed” CAR-T cells, or proCAR-T cells, would become a part of the development pipeline for a multitude of cancer immunotherapy products around the world, which would enable the selection of the optimal level of activity for any one of the many types of cancer a patient may suffer.”

The technology tests different forms of CAR-T cells with different types of cancer cells to better understand how to achieve an optimal balance of potency and safety. Through this testing they’re able to deliver a more suited CAR-T cell treatment.

There are currently more than 700 clinical trials of CAR-T happening around the world and WEHI believe that many, if not most of these could benefit from this platform. This new treatment is initially being trialed with types of brain and blood cancers.

To date, the WEHI team has demonstrated that the technology they have developed can indeed lead to tailored treatment options. Their research has been so effective they have been able to secure an additional $7m in funding to extend their work. In the next 12-18 months they are aiming to have clinical trails of the first therapies using their technology.

This progress is testament to the quality of their research and gives people who would otherwise be facing an end-of-life prognosis, the possibility of a viable and much safer treatment path.

Research Institute: Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI)
Solution: Curing Chronic Pain with a global education platform

You know that friend who has had a bad back last 10 years and they’ve never been able to find a proper diagnosis and treatment? Chances are, they have Chronic Pain.

Beyond the experience of pain, people with chronic pain can easily slide into a cycle of pills, depression and inactivity. 1 in 5 Australians are effected by Chronic Pain – it’s any type of pain that persists for more than 3 months, despite attempts to diagnose and treat an underlying cause - and costs an estimated $139b each year, mainly through reduced quality of life and productivity losses, on top of healthcare costs.

After nearly a decade of innovating on their direct to patient chronic pain management model, world-leading practitioner Professor Michael Nicholas and researchers at the Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI) are now re-developing a one-of-a-kind digital education platform for health care workers called “Clinical Pain Management” (CPM), based on the very successful ADAPT program. CPM is a multi-discipline course to help healthcare workers better diagnose and treat Chronic Pain.

While PMRI has been treating people with chronic pain for decades, this new platform allows them to scale their research and methodology nationally and provide more relevant education for healthcare professionals.

The first draft of the training modules are complete and being tested with a small number of healthcare professionals. Our funding this year will help them continue refining the training modules, complete building the platform and then start to engage healthcare professionals more fully on the benefits of the program. In time, PMRI aims to make this platform a global offering, to help the millions of people worldwide whose lives are dominated by pain.

Research Institute: Florey Neuroscience Institute
Solution: Gene therapy to improve living with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Having a child with Autism changes families lives beyond imagine.

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects 1 in 70 children at varying degrees. There’s no known cause and treatments are limited to psychological, occupational, and speech therapies as coping mechanisms.

ASD affects how you perceive and socialise with others, causing difficulties in social interaction and communication. ASD is also associated with limited and repetitive patterns of behaviour.

Dr Emma Burrows testing new therapies for ASD by replicating and testing genes associated with ASD in mice, hopefully leading to human trials soon.

Research Institute: Baker Institute
Solution: Fighting Type 2 Diabetes in Remote Indigenous communities

 

If you live in a remote Indigenous community, up to half of your friends would have Type 2 Diabetes. It’s an unbelievable statistic considering the rate of Type 2 Diabetes in non-Indigenous communities is only 5%.

To make things worse, Type 2 Diabetes in Indigenous communities has a stronger genetic component; it’s more malignant and aggressive – 9x more likely to lead to death in Indigenous communities than non-Indigenous ones.

Fighting Type 2 Diabetes in remote communities has only been an uphill battle. Traditional treatment and education aren’t fit for remote ways of living leaving large swaths of the disease undiagnosed and untreated.

A successful pilot study trialling a once weekly model of care has led to a Baker Institute Initiative is being established by Associate Professor Neale Cohen, the Head of Diabetes Clinical Research. Associate Professor Cohen has built trust and cooperation with Indigenous communities and elders, having worked closely with them over the past two decades. Under his leadership, the project will trial a model of care where physicians treat diabetes on a weekly basis and work with patients to address lifestyle factors that contribute to complications.

The Baker Institute is currently raising funds to support scaling out the initial trial success to more remote communities.

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