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.
How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare
Data is driving the future of healthcare, and companies that are not prepared for this transformation are at risk of being left behind.
How Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of Healthcare
Data is driving the future of business, and any company not prepared for this transformation is at risk of being left behind.
This is a reality in almost every sector, but it’s especially relevant to companies in the healthcare industry. That’s because the amount of health data being created is growing at a 48% rate annually, and by 2020, a Stanford University study estimates that 2,314 exabytes of healthcare data will be produced per year.
Simply put, the companies that can extract meaningful insights from these mountains of data will have a serious and durable competitive advantage – and those that don’t have a proper strategy for this boom in data will get lost in the weeds.
Breaking Down Big Data
Big data in healthcare spans four different dimensions:
The sheer amount of data created can be processed and interpreted by AI.
Noise, abnormality, and biases can undermine trust and accuracy of data. Data assurance can help guarantee analytics are credible and error-free.
Healthcare is time sensitive, and being able to process large amounts of data in real-time is crucial.
Big data comes from a myriad of sources, such as social media or IoT devices. Actionable insights can be gained from analyzing different data sources together.
Healthcare businesses must learn to quickly distill information from masses of data and to transform them into actionable insights. The ability to extract these insights will power the future of health, and become a differentiator for companies to thrive and stay ahead of emerging competitors.
How can companies reach “analytical nirvana”, a state where analytics can be used for strategic differentiation?
Companies must move towards being more service-focused, by transforming data into compelling stories that bridge the gap between customer engagement and action.
Further, this change must be powered by predictive health intelligence that can interpret data to create more personalized experiences for customers. Finally, data must be democratized throughout an organization, so that even non-analysts can deploy gained insights to achieve these other goals.
This journey may seem like a daunting task, but companies that successfully navigate this transformation will gain an edge that will continue to grow in importance in the digital era.
This is part two of a seven part series. Stay tuned by subscribing to Visual Capitalist for free, as we go into these six forces in more detail in the future.
Cryonics: Putting Death on Ice
This infographic delves into the mechanics and feasibility of cryonics – a process that thousands of people are betting will give them a second shot at life.
Cryonics: Putting Death on Ice
There is a potent thread winding its way through generations of human culture. From Ancient Egyptian rituals to Kurzweil’s Singularity, many paths have sprung up leading to the same elusive destination: immortality.
Today, the concept is as popular as it’s ever been, and technological advances are giving people hope that immortality, or at very least radical life extension, may be within reach. Is modern technology advanced enough to give people a second chance through cryonics?
Today’s infographic, courtesy of Futurism, tackles our growing fascination with putting death on ice.
The Prospect of Immortality
Robert C. W. Ettinger’s seminal work, The Prospect Of Immortality, detailed many of the scientific, moral, and economic implications of cryogenically freezing humans for later reanimation. It was after that book was published in 1962 that the idea of freezing one’s body after death began to take hold.
One of the most pressing questions is, even if we’re able to revive a person who has been cryogenically preserved, will the person’s memories and personality remain intact? Ettinger posits that long-term memory is stored in the brain as a long-lasting structural modification. Basically, those memories will remain, even if the brain’s “power is turned off”.
Descending into the Deep-Freeze
There are three main steps in the cryogenic process:
1) Immediately after a patient dies, the body is cooled with ice packs and transported to the freezing location.
2) Next, blood is drained from the patient’s body and replaced with a cryoprotectant (basically the same antifreeze solution used to transport organs destined for transplant).
3) Finally, once the body arrives at the cryonic preservation facility, the body is cooled to -196ºC (-320.8ºF) over the course of two weeks. Bodies are generally stored upside-down in a tank of liquid nitrogen.
The Economics of Cryopreservation
At prices ranging from about $30,000 to $200,000, cryopreservation may sound like an option reserved for the wealthy, but many people fund the procedure by naming a cryonics company as the primary benefactor of their life insurance policy. Meanwhile, in the event of a death that doesn’t allow for preservation of the body, the money goes to secondary beneficiaries.
Even if we do eventually find a way to reanimate frozen humans, another important consideration is how those people would take care of themselves financially. That’s where a cryonics or personal revival trust comes into play. A twist on a traditional dynastic trust, this arrangement ensures that there are funds to cover costs of the cryopreservation, as well as ensure the grantor would have assets when they’re unthawed. Of course, there are risks involved beyond the slim possibility of reanimation. The legal code in hundreds of years could be vastly different than today.
If you created a trust for specific purposes in 1711, it is unlikely it would function in the same way today.
– Kris Knaplund, Law Professor, Pepperdine University
Cold Humans, Hot Market
At last count, there are already 346 people in the deep freeze, with thousands more on the waiting list. As technology improves, those numbers are sure to continue rising.
Time will tell whether cryonically preserved people are able to cheat death. In the meantime? The cryonics industry is alive and well.
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