The global pandemic has spelled misery for most companies and industries. But for a minority, business has been booming. Those who have prospered in the lockdown have done so by providing an answer to the increased needs of populations working and playing from home. Some of these are obvious, but others less so.
Technology giants have been offering the right services at the right time as people have been stuck at home. Companies like Amazon became so popular that during the height of the pandemic, "non-essential" products had to be limited. Food platforms and delivery firms such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and DoorDash have all reported a massive surge in popularity. Similarly, entertainment platforms like Netflix saw unprecedented demand with a 23 per cent jump in global subscribers in Q1 of 2020 alone, compared to the previous year.
Working from home has been of huge benefit to companies like Microsoft, with their software workhorses like Word and Excel being more popular than ever. But there was also a surge in use for their collaborative Teams app, which, like Zoom, became the new standard way of doing business. In April 2020, Zoom video calls saw 300 million participants a day.
Another industry that has benefitted from the pandemic is the pharmaceutical industry. Companies that make vaccines have obviously seen a massive rise in demand, but there has been an industry sector witnessing a boom that many may not be aware of - those that produce products for mental health.
Over 700 million people are affected by some kind of mental illness globally. The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns exacerbated the problems many people face on a daily basis. Research has revealed that during the pandemic, as many as four in ten adults in the US reported symptoms of either anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in ten for the same period in the first half of 2019.
Pharmaceutical companies that make products to ease mental illness issues have seen a surge in demand due to the pandemic. Even smaller specialists and therapeutic developers have seen a similar rise in need. The result is some companies finding it easier to raise funding and even being able to go public within a considerably accelerated timeframe.
A great example of this is Cybin (NEO:CYBN; OTC: CLXPF ), a leading biotech company based in Canada. Cybin's founders established the company in 2018 as a result of personal experience with psychological problems. Cybin CEO Doug Drysdale explains the origins: "We had witnessed first-hand the suffering of loved ones due to mental issues without access to adequate medications. It was something we were in a position to fix, and so we founded Cybin with the goal of helping millions of people suffering from mental illness. We're on a mission to revolutionize mental health."
Cybin aims to achieve this mission by creating and enhancing access to its unique range of pharmaceutical products. They focus on discovery platforms and delivery systems to advance their therapeutics. Their aims and methods are sound, but the problem for newcomers to the pharmaceutical industry is that it's a costly field to enter and get established. Clinical trials, research and development, and the costs of highly trained specialist staff are all priced at a premium.
This is where Cybin's timing has been perfect. Their altruistic aims would have taken several years to come anywhere near fruition. But then COVID-19 arrived, and mental health issues soared. Their products were in huge demand, and consequently, backing flooded in.
"There has been a huge demand for the kind of help we can provide to those who have a mental illness. Although we were only established in 2018, the pandemic has resulted in our managing to raise C$88 million. We were able to go public in 2020," Drysdale said.
This funding has already allowed Cybin to complete 20 pre-clinical trials for the development of its proprietary molecules. These molecules are ground-breaking in that they are sub-lingual and can be delivered via orally dissolvable mechanisms. This results in more of the compound entering the brain as it bypasses the liver. Innovations like these are of immense appeal to pharmaceutical investors, and they were able to raise $34 million to advance the project.
"Our dream of helping millions suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental issues has been made possible faster than we initially anticipated," Drysdale continues. "We have numerous patents in the pipeline and have made several partnerships with multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies to get our products out to those who need them."
Cybin is one of the more successful stories in the sector, but it is not alone in benefitting from the surge in demand. The biotechnology and mental wellness sector have expanded considerably throughout the pandemic. However, the benefits experienced by this sector are different from other industries.
Major technology companies have seen a considerable boost purely down to their products being needed. They aren't creating anything new or changing what they do; they have just had a surge in demand and profit. After the pandemic, they will carry on in much the same way. In contrast, companies like Cybin have been able to advance their dreams of helping people by a sudden influx of funding. Post-pandemic, there will be a more extensive array of pharmaceutical products and beneficial therapeutics that can aid mental welfare for more people.
Doug Drysdale had said he was on a mission to revolutionize mental health. Thanks to the pandemic he, and others in his sector, are a huge step closer to making that a reality.