By Danielle Silva, Director of Research, LSN
There are a number of investor groups that are playing an increasingly significant role in the life sciences space as of late. One of the most compelling and motivated investors to enter the space are patient groups. These are indication-specific sources of capital that want to bring science forward in a distinct disease area. This includes a strong emphasis on carrying drugs across the “Valley of Death” to accelerate progress towards a cure. Patient groups essentially allow those afflicted by a disease to vote with their wallets to bring treatments to market, rather than seeking exit opportunities or financial returns.
At a basic level, patient groups are a collection of individuals who are afflicted by a disease that come together and mobilize to find cures for a certain affliction. In the past, patient groups often times partnered with foundations or venture philanthropists in order to make an investment or donation. One example of this is the Cystic Fibrosis foundation partnering with a number of patient groups and Aurora Biosciences . However, we are now seeing more and more of these groups mobilizing others to make a strategic investment to more directly improve patient outcomes.
Patient groups are taking an innovative approach to investing in the life science space, and are becoming empowered, investing in promising companies & researchers. Patient groups will often times take a strategic approach to attempt to bring many parties together to push research along in a certain area. Generally, patient groups will try to bring together scientists that are researching different areas of the disease – usually, they will also try to find some of the best and most well known scientists in the space in order to gain further legitimacy. This is also helpful because it creates a collaborative environment amongst scientists who are researching the same disease area. Patient groups then establish their clinical network – which is a network of patients that can be utilized for clinical trials for companies that they invest in (essentially utilizing the members of the patient group that are afflicted by the disease). The final step for these patient groups is to bring biotechs / big pharma into the picture, who in turn help the scientists to commercialize their research.
Patient groups are also dynamic because they almost create an ecosystem within their particular disease focus. Generally, patient groups are huge advocates of sharing as much information as possible – and help researchers even outside of their network gain access to research and data more quickly and easily. Patient groups also help patients to educate themselves, and allow them to see the various options that are available to them that may not yet be FDA approved. Thus it is expected patient groups will start to become an increasingly major player in the life sciences space because of their collaborative nature, and gain the ability to bring together different groups to work towards a common goal.