This is the basis of a fascinating story published by Entrepreneur Magazine recently. In 1999, while the Internet was in its infancy, Gates predicts, among other things, smartphones, financial technologies and financial technologies.
His prescience was strange. I believe the opportunity for investors is the unique idea of Gates that failed.
When the Internet was more than AOL and a dial-up connection for most people, Gates imagined health care turned into real-time consultations with doctors. He saw a future of data and devices.
Two decades later, governments around the world are still struggling to provide high quality health care at a reasonable price. Regulations, patient privacy concerns, and strong partners in the pharmaceutical and insurance sectors have aligned themselves to maintain the status quo.
The good news is that innovators in medical technology are coming.
Network and videoconferencing technologies are fast enough for simple consultation, but this is just the beginning. Many of us voluntarily carry complex sensors wherever we go. They are in our smartphones, fitness trackers and watches. Our genetic material provides even more important information.
This intersection attracts new investments. In truth, an Alphabet-owned life sciences company (GOOGL) collects data in the health ecosystem. The company works with leading pharmaceutical companies, medical product companies, clinicians and patients to integrate datasets, then apply methods of analysis and machine learning to learn from them .
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It's a radical idea. In truth, we are essentially rethinking health care by finding patterns in the data.
In 2016, Verily is associated with Nikon, the legendary camera manufacturer. Researchers are working on a screening tool for diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, two of the leading causes of blindness in adults.
If everything goes as planned, clinicians will be able to take a picture of the patient's eye and determine the early onset of the disease. Nikon will provide the images, while Verily will take care of the machine learning.
On January 9, the company announced that it had raised a new $ 1 billion financing from investors. Ruth Porat, Alphabet's Chief Financial Officer, also joins the board.
It's a real deal. The company wants to do for health care results what Google has done for Internet research. Verily uses her programming strengths, and all IT could take advantage of the Google Cloud computing platform to search for needles in piles of information hay.
It's probably way beyond what Gates had imagined in 1999.
For investors, however, the best way to follow this trend is not Alphabet. In truth, this is not a publicly traded company, and even if it were, its sales would not affect the net results of its parent company.
Illumina Inc. (ILMN) manufactures the best DNA sequencers used by pharmaceutical companies, academic and clinical research organizations. With a 70% market share, the San Diego company is at the center of the future life science computing.
DNA sequencing allows doctors to customize drugs. They can tailor drug treatments to the patient's genetics, regimen, and family history.
For a long time, it was impossible. The tests were too expensive and the science was not advanced enough. Now none of these things are true. Thanks to Illumina's Herculean efforts, the cost of sequencing has dropped to $ 1,000 today. The same battery of tests would have cost $ 100 million in 2001.
Cutting costs may seem like a recipe for disaster, but it prevents competitors from entering. It also creates a significant new market for Illumina equipment.
Illumina reported sales of $ 867 million during its fourth fiscal quarter on Tuesday, an 11% gain over the previous year. For 2018, sales increased 21% to $ 3.3 billion. Gross margin increased to 69% from 66.4% a year earlier.
The shares are far from the record reached in October at $ 370. They trade about 43 times the profits and 3.3 times the sales, which is not cheap, but it is closer to the average of the last five years.
This is an attractive long-term entry level for businesses using data and devices unimaginable 20 years ago, even for Bill Gates.