The coronavirus pandemic has changed how the world's healthcare systems and biotechnology companies will operate irrevocably as Covid-19 "isn’t going to go away", according to virologist and manager of the AUS$335m Platinum International Healthcare fund Dr Bianca Ogden.
Ogden, who obtained a PhD in virology, and previously worked as a scientist for Johnson & Johnson and Novartis before launching the portfolio in 2003, said comparisons can be made between the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus and HIV, in that it cannot be eradicated via a single vaccine.
"When you look at the family of coronaviruses, they don't tend to go away. They were compared relatively early on to the HIV virus; it is a different family, but similarly it is something we will have to live with, and it means we will have to adjust how we live," she explained.
"Coronaviruses have been around for some time, so we know quite a bit about them. But this strain of the virus is pretty clever. It is not killing us as quickly which is a good thing, but that is what smart viruses do because, if they kill us, they eliminate where they can live.
"What we are seeing now is that the immunity people have once they have been infected is not as strong as measles or chickenpox, for example. It means that we are susceptible again."
As such, Ogden said people are likely to require a vaccine booster every six months or every year.
"The best outcome would be if we get a vaccine and therapeutics. But I think this will change the way we interact with people; we will probably have to learn to live with it.
"I don't think there will be a second wave, I think there will be ongoing waves and localised outbreaks. How you position for that as a fund manager, I don't know. I just look at it and say, 'well, it is what it is', and we just have to deal with it."
The manager said governments are now starting to purchase slots to obtain vaccines from some of the biotech firms developing them, which means these companies are getting closer to knowing how to value their products.
"If the vaccine comes, I think there is a chance that there will perhaps be a first edition that is not as effective as it could be, then we could move to something that maybe has greater longevity, for example," she added.
Ogden believes companies creating vaccines will have to continue their research and development over a far longer time horizon than many investors expect, given the virus's ability to mutate and the fact that both arms of the human immune system must be considered.
She explained that the immune system responds in two ways: by triggering the release of 'T cells' or thymus cells, which are involved in cell-mediated immunity; and B cells - or bone marrow cells - which are a type of white blood cell that secretes antibodies.
"At the moment, it is a B cell response we are seeing in relation to Covid-19 and a speedy antibody response. But now, maybe we need a T cell response. How do we do that? Perhaps a second wave will be much more about that," the manager reasoned.
"I think there will be franchises within biotech and pharma companies going forwards, because I don't think a vaccine alone will be the solution. We will need therapeutics to deal with this as well.
"I do think it is very similar to HIV. The problem with HIV and creating a vaccine is that the virus integrates and lives with you forever. It is harder to create a vaccine for that and they are still working on it, but therapeutics have really changed the way we deal with it."
There are a number of firms already looking into therapeutics services to help handle Covid-19, according to Ogden, such as US multinational pharma firm Pfizer.
Pfizer, which has also already created a vaccine, is working on a protease inhibitor, which blocks an enzyme known as protease from forming inside cells and therefore prevents new strains of the same virus from being created.