MIT Sloan finance professor Andrew Lo applies a hedge fund approach to increasing investment in drug development
Lo does not fault Big Pharma for this dilemma, noting that most large pharmaceutical companies are public companies entrusted with a fiduciary duty to generate returns for shareholders. Nor does he blame venture capitalists, as they are not in business to risk a $30 million investment in one company’s projects. It appeared that neither public nor private equity was the best vehicle to fund biomedical innovation.
The alternative is what Lo and his colleagues at MIT Sloan have devised, a $30 billion megafund to develop drugs treating cancer, and a smaller, less-than-$1 billion investment portfolio targeting orphan drugs. The large amount of the megafund is based on evidence that it requires at least $200 million in out-of-pocket costs to investigate and develop a single therapeutic compound, from beginning to end. For a high rate of success, the fund would need at least 150 of these shots.
The smaller portfolio for orphan diseases recognizes the significantly higher odds of a new orphan drug receiving FDA approval versus those aimed at curing cancer—22 percent versus 6 or 7 percent.
Both portfolio financing strategies are in the proposal stage, and Lo is confident of their eventual success. Until then, his campaign to apply financial tools to curing deadly illnesses continues. It’s worth a shot.