Hedge Fund Beta Replication: A Five-Year Retrospective2014
During the past few years, hedge fund beta replication strategies have become more common. At the same time, questions about the relevance, performance, and applicability of these strategies have been raised in response to the rapidly shifting landscape in the hedge fund industry. We present a review of the growing beta replication industry with particular emphasis on the ASG Global Alternatives Fund. We discuss the motivation for its existence and the logic of its absolute and relative performance over time and across different market environments. We also explain why these strategies are complements to, and not substitutes for, direct investments in hedge funds, and provide examples of their value-added in investors’ portfolios.
Financing Drug Discovery for Orphan Diseases2014
Recently proposed ‘megafund’ financing methods for funding translational medicine and drug development require billions of dollars in capital per megafund to de-risk the drug discovery process enough to issue long-term bonds. Here, we demonstrate that the same financing methods can be applied to orphan drug development but, because of the unique nature of orphan diseases and therapeutics (lower development costs, faster FDA approval times, lower failure rates and lower correlation of failures among disease targets) the amount of capital needed to de-risk such portfolios is much lower in this field. Numerical simulations suggest that an orphan disease megafund of only US $575 million can yield double-digit expected rates of return with only 10–20 projects in the portfolio. Open-source software available for download above.
Wall Street’s Next Bet: Cures for Rare Diseases2014
MIT Sloan Professor Andrew Lo authored this blog post about the development of a mega-fund to finance research and drug development for orphan diseases.
New Financing Methods in the Biopharma Industry: A Case Study of Royalty Pharma, Inc.2014
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are facing significant challenges to their existing business models because of expiring drug patents, declining risk tolerance of venture capitalists and other investors, and increasing complexity in translational medicine. In response to these challenges, new alternative investment companies have emerged to bridge the biopharma funding gap by purchasing economic interests in drug royalty streams. Such purchases allow universities and biopharma companies to monetize their intellectual property, creating greater financial flexibility for them while giving investors an opportunity to participate in the life sciences industry at lower risk. Royalty Pharma is the largest of these drug royalty investment companies, and in this case study, we profile its business model and show how its unique financing structure greatly enhances the impact it has had on the biopharma industry and biomedical innovation.
Financial Orphan Therapies Looking for Adoption2014
There exist scientifically promising treatments not being tested further because of insufficient financial incentives. Many of these therapies involve off-label uses of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration that are readily available and often inexpensive. Pharmaceutical companies—largely responsible for clinical drug development—cannot justify investing in such clinical trials because they cannot recoup the costs of these studies. However, without prospective data demonstrating efficacy, such treatments will never be adopted as standard of care.
In an era of increasing health care costs and the need for effective therapies in many diseases, it is essential that society finds ways to adopt these “financial orphans.” We propose several potential solutions for the non-profit sector, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, patient driven research, and others to accomplish this goal.
Unintended Consequences of Expensive Cancer Therapeutics The Pursuit of Marginal Indications and a Me-Too Mentality That Stifles Innovation and Creativity2014
Cancer is expected to continue as a major health and economic problem worldwide. Several factors are contributing to the increasing economic burden imposed by cancer, with the cost of cancer drugs an undeniably important variable. The use of expensive therapies with marginal benefits for their approved indications and for unproven indications is contributing to the rising cost of cancer care.We believe that expensive therapies are stifling progress by (1) encouraging enormous expenditures of time, money, and resources on marginal therapeutic indications and (2) promoting a me-too mentality that is stifling innovation and creativity. The modest gains of Food and Drug Administration–approved therapies and the limited progress against major cancers is evidence of a lowering of the efficacy bar that, together with high drug prices, has inadvertently incentivized the pursuit of marginal outcomes and a me-too mentality evidenced by the duplication of effort and redundant pharmaceutical pipelines. We discuss the economic realities that are driving this process and provide suggestions for radical changes to reengineer our collective cancer ecosystem to achieve better outcomes for society.
The Origin of Risk Aversion2014
Risk aversion is one of the most basic assumptions of economic behavior, but few studies have addressed the question of where risk preferences come from and why they differ from one individual to the next. Here, we propose an evolutionary explanation for the origin of risk aversion. In the context of a simple binary-choice model, we show that risk aversion emerges by natural selection if reproductive risk is systematic (i.e., correlated across individuals in a given generation). In contrast, risk neutrality emerges if reproductive risk is idiosyncratic (i.e., uncorrelated across each given generation). More generally, our framework implies that the degree of risk aversion is determined by the stochastic nature of reproductive rates, and we show that different statistical properties lead to different utility functions. The simplicity and generality of our model suggest that these implications are primitive and cut across species, physiology, and genetic origins.
Dynamic Loss Probabilities and Implications for Financial Regulation2014
Much of financial regulation and supervision is devoted to ensuring the safety and soundness of financial institutions. Such micro- and macroprudential policies are almost always formulated as capital requirements, leverage constraints, and other statutory restrictions designed to limit the probability of extreme financial loss to some small but acceptable threshold. However, if the risks of a financial institution's assets vary over time and across circumstances, then the efficacy of financial regulations necessarily varies in lockstep unless the regulations are adaptive. We illustrate this principle with empirical examples drawn from the financial industry, and show how the interaction of certain regulations with dynamic loss probabilities can have the unintended consequence of amplifying financial losses. We propose an ambitious research agenda in which legal scholars and financial economists collaborate to develop optimally adaptive regulations that anticipate the endogeneity of risk-taking behavior.
Group Selection as Behavioral Adaptation to Systematic Risk2014
Despite many compelling applications in economics, sociobiology, and evolutionary psychology, group selection is still one of the most hotly contested ideas in evolutionary biology. Here we propose a simple evolutionary model of behavior and show that what appears to be group selection may, in fact, simply be the consequence of natural selection occurring in stochastic environments with reproductive risks that are correlated across individuals. Those individuals with highly correlated risks will appear to form “groups”, even if their actions are, in fact, totally autonomous, mindless, and, prior to selection, uniformly randomly distributed in the population. This framework implies that a separate theory of group selection is not strictly necessary to explain observed phenomena such as altruism and cooperation. At the same time, it shows that the notion of group selection does captures a unique aspect of evolution—selection with correlated reproductive risk–that may be sufficiently widespread to warrant a separate term for the phenomenon.
Parallel Discovery of Alzheimers Therapeutics2014
As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) grows, so do the costs it imposes on society. Scientific, clinical, and financial interests have focused current drug discovery efforts largely on the single biological pathway that leads to amyloid deposition. This effort has resulted in slow progress and disappointing outcomes. Here, we describe a “portfolio approach” in which multiple distinct drug development projects are undertaken simultaneously. Although a greater upfront investment is required, the probability of at least one success should be higher with “multiple shots on goal,” increasing the efficiency of this undertaking. However, our portfolio simulations show that the risk-adjusted return on investment of parallel discovery is insufficient to attract private-sector funding. Nevertheless, the future cost savings of an effective AD therapy to Medicare and Medicaid far exceed this investment, suggesting that government funding is both essential and financially beneficial.
When Do Stop-Loss Rules Stop Losses?2014
We propose a simple analytical framework to measure the value added or subtracted by stoploss rules—predetermined policies that reduce a portfolio’s exposure after reaching a certain threshold of cumulative losses—on the expected return and volatility of an arbitrary portfolio strategy. Using daily futures price data, we provide an empirical analysis of stop-loss policies applied to a buy-and-hold strategy using index futures contracts. At longer sampling frequencies, certain stop-loss policies can increase expected return while substantially reducing volatility, consistent with their objectives in practical applications.
Quantifying Systemic Risk2013
In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, the federal government has pursued significant regulatory reforms, including proposals to measure and monitor systemic risk. However, there is much debate about how this might be accomplished quantitatively and objectively—or whether this is even possible. A key issue is determining the appropriate trade-offs between risk and reward from a policy and social welfare perspective given the potential negative impact of crises.
One of the first books to address the challenges of measuring statistical risk from a system-wide perspective, Quantifying Systemic Risk looks at the means of measuring systemic risk and explores alternative approaches. Among the topics discussed are the challenges of tying regulations to specific quantitative measures, the effects of learning and adaptation on the evolution of the market, and the distinction between the shocks that start a crisis and the mechanisms that enable it to grow.
Fear, Greed, and Financial Crises: A Cognitive Neurosciences Perspective2013
Abstract Historical accounts of financial crises suggest that fear and greed are the common denominators of these disruptive events: periods of unchecked greed eventually lead to excessive leverage and unsustainable asset-price levels, and the inevitable collapse results in unbridled fear, which must subside before any recovery is possible. The cognitive neurosciences may provide some new insights into this boom/bust pattern through a deeper understanding of the dynamics of emotion and human behavior. In this chapter, I describe some recent research from the neurosciences literature on fear and reward learning, mirror neurons, theory of mind, and the link between emotion and rational behavior. By exploring the neuroscientific basis of cognition and behavior, we may be able to identify more fundamental drivers of financial crises, and improve our models and methods for dealing with them.
Can Hedge Funds Time Market Liquidity?2013
We explore a new dimension of fund managers' timing ability by examining whether they can time market liquidity through adjusting their portfolios' market exposure as aggregate liquidity conditions change. Using a large sample of hedge funds, we find strong evidence of liquidity timing. A bootstrap analysis suggests that top-ranked liquidity timers cannot be attributed to pure luck. In out-of-sample tests, top liquidity timers outperform bottom timers by 4.0–5.5% annually on a risk-adjusted basis. We also find that it is important to distinguish liquidity timing from liquidity reaction, which primarily relies on public information. Our results are robust to alternative explanations, hedge fund data biases, and the use of alternative timing models, risk factors, and liquidity measures. The findings highlight the importance of understanding and incorporating market liquidity conditions in investment decision making.
Learning Connections in Financial Time Series2013
To reduce risk, investors seek assets that have high expected return and are unlikely to move in tandem. Correlation measures are generally used to quantify the connections between equities. The 2008 financial crisis, and its aftermath, demonstrated the need for a better way to quantify these connections. We present a machine learning-based method to build a connectedness matrix to address the shortcomings of correlation in capturing events such as large losses. Our method uses an unconstrained optimization to learn this matrix, while ensuring that the resulting matrix is positive semi-de nite. We show that this matrix can be used to build portfolios that not only beat the market," but also outperform optimal (i.e., minimum variance) portfolios.