In Oncology Investing, Knowledge is a Big Advantage

26 Sep

By Jack Fuller, Business Development, LSN

Therapies targeting cancer indications have historically gotten a lot of attention in the healthcare industry. As the new categories of direct investors in biotechnology continue to grow savvier in the sector, funding cancer therapeutics remains the most attractive economic and philanthropic opportunity.

Nothing new here, as the odds of having cancer in a lifetime are at 44% for men, and 38% for women. Everyone is affected by cancer, which in turn fuels enormous interest in philanthropic passion investing. Couple a philanthropic interest with a strong market potential, and cancer becomes a no-brainer for many institutional investors. This has led to a large subsector in the industry, so in order to find out what areas of cancer are hot we need to drill deeper.

At a recent event I was speaking with the lead scout at one of the premier pharmaceutical companies in the world.  He mentioned that within cancer, the biggest area of research that stood out for their team was finding ways negate one of cancer’s biggest strengths – avoiding the immune system.  Any therapy that had a way of boosting the immune system or giving it the tools needed to search out and destroy cancer, they wanted to know about.

The fact that people seeking out indirect methods of treating cancer versus the traditional direct therapeutic approach says something about how much progress scientists have made in this field. The fundamental, biological understanding we now have of cancer is the greatest strength in the advancement of specific therapies. Scientists have been removing and analyzing tumors for decades, examining first the effects of small molecules – and today, of biologics – on highly advanced tumor models in animals, and pinpointing ways to (more or less) treat the disease. The bottom line is that we have a decent idea of how cancer works when compared to difficult-to-analyze diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), or even more ill defined maladies such as psychiatric disorders.

At a recent symposium on the future of neurological drug development, one expert pointed out that we can’t biopsy CNS disease tissue, except posthumously, which in turn severely limits the information the scientific community can gather. Similarly, when studying mouse models of psychiatric disorders, it is rather difficult to tell if a mouse is schizophrenic or not.

The bottom line to biotech entrepreneurs and investors alike is that when people talk about cancer being hot, there are some serious scientific differentiators that back up cancer therapy development. We are not talking about a cancer “bubble” or an investment fad, but the momentum generating from decades of developing the right tools to study and understand cancer as a disease. While that isn’t exactly groundbreaking news, the message here is that any companies with robust research technologies have a strong pitch to philanthropic investors looking to advance cures in poorly understood diseases.

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