The importance of medical research and its power to change lives has always been close to TDM. It’s fair to say that without the extraordinary work of the Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI) at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, TDM might not exist.
TDM founder Tom Cowan experienced a back injury in his late teens, which was never properly diagnosed or treated. By his mid twenties the pain had progressed to such a point, he could no longer sit or walk for extended periods. Tom’s condition forced him to leave the investment banking industy and consider other career paths. It was while at home spending prolonged periods lying flat on his living room floor, that he created TDM.
Since then, Tom’s pain has been managed effectively with the help of PMRI and he lives a full and active life.
Viewed through this prism you can see why, when the opportunity arose 2 years ago to be part of HM1, TDM jumped at it. The HM1 concept combines three of our passions – investment management, supporting Australia’s incredible medical research sector and delivering positive social impact to the community.
Hearts and Minds, aside from the incredible annual Investment Leaders Conference that has raised over $40 million for medical research, also has a listed Investment vehicle on the ASX (ticker ASX:HM1), with the majority of funds managed by 6 invited fund managers, or which TDM is proudly one. This not only gives retail investors access to great investment ideas, but also has the added benefit that the management fees are donated to medical researchers of the manager’s choice.
We love the HM1 model because it so powerfully achieves commercial outcomes while also delivering significant social impact.
At TDM, the investment team manages the stock selection while the TDM Foundation leads the diligence effort to determine which medical research to support. With so many world-leading medical institutes in Australia, that’s no easy task.
Initially, it was difficult to know where to start.
The rates of chronic disease are overwhelming with 1 in 2 Australians affected. With our ageing population, we are seeing increasing rates of dementia and other neurological diseases, most with poor treatment options. Likewise, the 1 in 5 Australians suffering chronic pain are left with few alternatives if pharmaceuticals are no longer an option.
And these medical challenges are just the tip of the iceberg. We’re sure every single Australian family could nominate a disease or condition they’ve seen a loved one experience, which they’d like to see prevented in future.
With so many research projects worth backing, we spent a lot of time thinking about and then developing a rigorous selection process.
Our first step was to learn more about the sector – not such a simple task when you consider the statistics! There are currently approximately 32,000 medical researchers in Australia spread across more than 70 medical research institutes focused on thousands of diseases and conditions.
We narrowed our approach down to research projects which we felt our funding would have the biggest impact on. We also looked for approaches that will take research in new directions and where the ideas can scale, meaning a greater number of patients will ultimately benefit. We discussed the research with medical research professionals to gather their insights. Finally, as TDM does with all its investment decisions, we looked for medical research teams with outstanding people and culture.
Our Foundation team then spent time with institutions who met these criteria. We developed connections with their people to experience their culture, to learn about their challenges and to hear their best ideas.
Making decisions was incredibly difficult – and that’s a credit to the strength and competitiveness of Australia’s medical research sector.
In September we committed more than $1m to the following researchers;
Professor Michael Nicholas at the Pain Management Research Institute to create a digital platform that will enable health care providers to become skilled in chronic pain management under the ADAPT program.
Dr Emma Burrows and her team at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health for a project that investigates medications which help people with autism spectrum disorder to better cope with behavioural challenge.
Associate Professor Matthew Call and his team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research who are investigating optimum treatment levels using CAR-T cell therapy while minimising life threatening side effects
Associate Professor Laurence Macia through Multiple Sclerosis Australia to learn more about whether a high protein diet can positively influence the gut microbiome, which bacteria are involved and the impact on MS severity.
Over the next 10 years, TDM aims to return more than $40m to the medical research sector through its collaboration with HM1. Because we know that at its most powerful, medical research changes lives. Just ask Tom.