Investing in a Cure for Cancer: What You Need to Know
More than $100 billion is spent worldwide every year in the quest to cure cancer. However, despite this exhaustive effort, the number of cancer cases is estimated to increase by 70% over the next two decades, and is expected to reach 25 million new cases per year by 2030.
Is there a prospect of stopping – or even slowing – the spread of this debilitating disease?
What You Need to Know About Cancer
The below infographic from Healthgrad shows that although there have been huge advancements in the understanding of how cancers behave and the development of more effective treatments, there is still no single “cure” for cancer.
That said, there are some very promising advances in cancer treatment in progress, and we highlight some thoughts on gaining exposure to these companies later on in the article.
A Global Epidemic
As the infographic points out, we all have cancer cells in our bodies, which our immune systems are responsible for fighting off. Problems arise when these cells are triggered by certain external and internal factors, such as exposure to environmental toxins, viruses, or the natural process of aging.
Once these cancer cells are triggered, they begin to multiply rapidly and overwhelm the immune system.
No Single Cure
Cancer is not a single disease, so there can be no single cure. There are actually more than 100 different forms of verified cancerous diseases, however some sources claim this number is much higher.
New discoveries about the onset and behavior of cancer are being made all the time, and they are leading to the development of more effective therapies. For example, it was recently discovered that there are multiple subtypes of breast cancer, which may occur at the same time within a patient and have various degrees of responsiveness to different treatments.
Findings such as this are driving new forms of more personalized diagnostic and treatment methods, such as vaccines, immunotherapy products, and targeted therapies.
How to Invest in a Cure for Cancer
1.) Prepare to be patient:
Currently we are seeing a shift in medical innovation, whereby smaller biotech companies are producing game-changing breakthrough treatments in relatively new fields of oncology such as targeted immunotherapy. Investing in these smaller biotech companies can produce huge returns, but the risk is also high. If a promising biotech startup doesn’t end up getting its product approved by the FDA, the stock price will likely plummet.
Another point to keep in mind is that these stocks tend to be quite volatile along the road to marketability. Patience is a virtue when it comes to investing in pharmaceutical companies, and it can take stocks up to five or ten years to reach their full potential.
2.) Diversify among therapies:
Today, large pharmaceutical companies are bringing the latest cancer therapy products to market, while smaller biotech companies are working on the next wave of innovative new cancer therapies.
A good strategy is to diversify investments by seeking opportunities in both the current and future waves of cancer treatment innovation. Bear in mind that many big pharma companies are actively acquiring smaller biotechs and will continue to do so over the coming years.
3.) Opportunities in acquisitions:
In recent years, corporate interest in startups that are developing cancer therapies has been increasing.
According to CB Insights, corporate-backed deals in cancer-focused startups increased from around 30 in 2012 to nearly 50 in 2016 (as of October 2016). And it’s not just big pharma that’s taken notice: tech companies such as Google and IBM have entered this space recently, investing millions into startups developing immune-oncology and targeted therapy treatments.
Among the most notable deals:
- Biopharma company Celgene has been the most active investor in cancer therapy startups, backing 16 companies in the last five years including Cleave Biosciences ($37 million Series B round) and Quanticel Pharmaceuticals ($485 million acquisition) in 2015.
- Pharma company AbbVie acquired Stemcentrx for $10.2 billion in Q2 2016, one of the largest acquisitions of a VC-backed company in history.
- Drug development startup Petra Pharma was backed by five of the top corporate investors in a $48 million Series A round, including AbbVie Biotech Ventures, Eli Lilly & Co, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Pfizer Venture Investments, and WuXi PharmaTech – as well as IBM Watson Group.
Preventive vs. Curative
Most cancers, once diagnosed, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat. Many health care professionals in the field of oncology have argued that the way money is currently spent on cancer treatment is not sustainable. Their stance is that more funding should be allocated to preventive rather than curative measures. For example, granting widespread access to vaccinations against certain prevalent cancers – such as for Hepatitis B, the leading cause of liver cancer, and for HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer – could go a long way to preventing the onset of this devastating disease.
Timeline: The Shocking Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank
Silicon Valley Bank was shuttered by regulators becoming the largest bank to fail since the height of the Financial Crisis. What happened?
Timeline: The Shocking Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank
Just days ago, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was still viewed as a highly-respected player in the tech space, counting thousands of U.S. venture capital-backed startups as its customers.
But fast forward to the end of last week, and SVB was shuttered by regulators after a panic-induced bank run.
So, how exactly did this happen? We dig in below.
Road to a Bank Run
SVB and its customers generally thrived during the low interest rate era, but as rates rose, SVB found itself more exposed to risk than a typical bank. Even so, at the end of 2022, the bank’s balance sheet showed no cause for alarm.
As well, the bank was viewed positively in a number of places. Most Wall Street analyst ratings were overwhelmingly positive on the bank’s stock, and Forbes had just added the bank to its Financial All-Stars list.
Outward signs of trouble emerged on Wednesday, March 8th, when SVB surprised investors with news that the bank needed to raise more than $2 billion to shore up its balance sheet.
The reaction from prominent venture capitalists was not positive, with Coatue Management, Union Square Ventures, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund moving to limit exposure to the 40-year-old bank. The influence of these firms is believed to have added fuel to the fire, and a bank run ensued.
Also influencing decision making was the fact that SVB had the highest percentage of uninsured domestic deposits of all big banks. These totaled nearly $152 billion, or about 97% of all deposits.
By the end of the day, customers had tried to withdraw $42 billion in deposits.
What Triggered the SVB Collapse?
While the collapse of SVB took place over the course of 44 hours, its roots trace back to the early pandemic years.
In 2021, U.S. venture capital-backed companies raised a record $330 billion—double the amount seen in 2020. At the time, interest rates were at rock-bottom levels to help buoy the economy.
Matt Levine sums up the situation well: “When interest rates are low everywhere, a dollar in 20 years is about as good as a dollar today, so a startup whose business model is “we will lose money for a decade building artificial intelligence, and then rake in lots of money in the far future” sounds pretty good. When interest rates are higher, a dollar today is better than a dollar tomorrow, so investors want cash flows. When interest rates were low for a long time, and suddenly become high, all the money that was rushing to your customers is suddenly cut off.”
|Year||U.S. Venture Capital Activity||Annual % Change|
Why is this important? During this time, SVB received billions of dollars from these venture-backed clients. In one year alone, their deposits increased 100%. They took these funds and invested them in longer-term bonds. As a result, this created a dangerous trap as the company expected rates would remain low.
During this time, SVB invested in bonds at the top of the market. As interest rates rose higher and bond prices declined, SVB started taking major losses on their long-term bond holdings.
Losses Fueling a Liquidity Crunch
When SVB reported its fourth quarter results in early 2023, Moody’s Investor Service, a credit rating agency took notice. In early March, it said that SVB was at high risk for a downgrade due to its significant unrealized losses.
In response, SVB looked to sell $2 billion of its investments at a loss to help boost liquidity for its struggling balance sheet. Soon, more hedge funds and venture investors realized SVB could be on thin ice. Depositors withdrew funds in droves, spurring a liquidity squeeze and prompting California regulators and the FDIC to step in and shut down the bank.
What Happens Now?
While much of SVB’s activity was focused on the tech sector, the bank’s shocking collapse has rattled a financial sector that is already on edge.
The four biggest U.S. banks lost a combined $52 billion the day before the SVB collapse. On Friday, other banking stocks saw double-digit drops, including Signature Bank (-23%), First Republic (-15%), and Silvergate Capital (-11%).
|Name||Stock Price Change, March 10 2023||Unrealized Losses / Tangible Equity|
|First Republic Bank||-15%||-29%|
|Fifth Third Bancorp||-4%||-38%|
|Bank of America||-1%||-54%|
Source: Morningstar Direct. *Represents March 9 data, trading halted on March 10.
When the dust settles, it’s hard to predict the ripple effects that will emerge from this dramatic event. For investors, the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen announced confidence in the banking system remaining resilient, noting that regulators have the proper tools in response to the issue.
But others have seen trouble brewing as far back as 2020 (or earlier) when commercial banking assets were skyrocketing and banks were buying bonds when rates were low.
The whole sector is in crisis, and the banks and investors that support these assets are going to have to figure out what to do.-Christopher Whalen, The Institutional Risk Analyst
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