Growth investors haven't exactly had the easiest time over the past year as valuations of once-high-flying stocks have come down significantly on evolving investor sentiment and fears about the impact of a potential bear market and/or recession.

However, for investors with a long-term buy-and-hold horizon of at least three to five years, if you have the cash available to continue investing in the market, great businesses with compelling paths to future growth still abound. 

On that note, let's look at two such companies with unique competitive advantages within their respective industries, a robust track record of financial growth, and the potential to generate enviable returns for investors over the next decade and beyond. 

1. Intuitive Surgical: The giant of surgical devices

Intuitive Surgical (ISRG 1.62%) specializes in developing and manufacturing robotic surgical systems. Its focal product is the Da Vinci Surgical System, which has been used in more than 10 million surgeries globally to date since its launch more than two decades ago.  

Intuitive Surgical's family of products -- including the Da Vinci System, which is used in everything from colorectal procedures to cardiac surgery, and its Ion system, used in minimally invasive peripheral lung biopsies -- have consistently generated strong growth for the company. Over the trailing 10-year period, Intuitive Surgical has increased its revenue, net income, and cash from operations by 162%, 160%, and 157%, respectively.

Investors have also benefited greatly from Intuitive's growth story, with the stock delivering a total return of 243% over the past decade compared to 207% for the S&P 500.  

While newer entrants have heated up the robotic-assisted surgery space, Intuitive Surgical has maintained a remarkably strong foothold in this lucrative and fast-growing market. As of 2021, the company's market share totaled a whopping 80%. To give context here, the global robotic-assisted surgery market hit a valuation of $4.4 billion this year and is on track to hit a valuation of $18.2 billion by the year 2030. That's a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20%.  

Over the past couple of years, Intuitive Surgical's financials have taken a hit due to fluctuations in the normal flow of procedures that have occurred during the various phases of the pandemic. In the most recent quarter, the company reported that it installed 15% fewer Da Vinci Systems than in the year-ago period.

Even so, revenue grew 4%, while Da Vinci procedures jumped 14% from the year-ago period and its installed base of systems rose 13%. And that was on the heels of respective top- and bottom-line growth of 31% and 61% in 2021.   

Intuitive Surgical may continue to face some near-term headwinds while procedure volumes vary as vestiges of the pandemic linger. But s the market leader, Intuitive Surgical is well-positioned to benefit from a recovery in procedure volumes, and the demand for robotic surgical systems that facilitate all manner of minimally invasive surgeries simply isn't going anywhere.

Over the long term, investors who build a position in this company can benefit from its market dominance and strong path forward to future growth. 

2. Vertex Pharmaceuticals: Focused on rare diseases

Biotech stocks have something of a reputation for being risky investments, but there are always exceptions to that rule. While no investment is entirely devoid of risk, a company like Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX 1.36%) is by far one of the most stable buys you can find in this sector of the healthcare industry. 

Why is this? Well, the company has a corner on the very niche, multibillion-dollar cystic fibrosis treatment market. It's estimated that roughly 1 in 30 individuals in the U.S. is a carrier of the genetic disease. Approximately 30,000 Americans have been diagnosed with the disease to date.  

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved what it recognized as a breakthrough therapy, one that captured over 90% of the cystic fibrosis patient population. The drug -- a CFTR modulator called Trikafta -- happens to be Vertex's flagship product and raked in revenue of $5.7 billion in 2021. The goal of a CFTR modulator is to remedy the faulty CFTR gene that causes cystic fibrosis.

Besides Trikafta, there are currently only three other approved CFTR modulators on the market. All of them are made by Vertex.

Over the past five years, Vertex has boosted its revenue by 204%, while its net income has risen by 789%. And in the most recent quarter, the company saw revenue grow 22% year over year to $2.2 billion, while net income jumped more than 12-fold to $810 million. A combination of robust product sales and a payment arising from its partnership with CRISPR Therapeutics contributed to this lightening streak of bottom line growth.

Vertex's continued strong financial performance, coupled with the headway it's making on a number of other potential blockbuster products targeting numerous rare diseases, has certainly caught the attention of investors. The stock popped nearly 3% in the month of September alone and is up 33% year to date. 

An investment in this fast-growing and financially sound company -- both for its current industry leadership and its long-term potential as a leader in the broader rare-disease drug market -- could benefit from tremendous growth over the next five years and beyond.