Buying Cures Versus Renting Health: Financing Health Care with Consumer Loans2016
A crisis is building over the prices of new transformative therapies for cancer, hepatitis C virus infection, and rare diseases. The clinical imperative is to offer these therapies as broadly and rapidly as possible. We propose a practical way to increase drug affordability through health care loans (HCLs)—the equivalent of mortgages for large health care expenses. HCLs allow patients in both multipayer and single-payer markets to access a broader set of therapeutics, including expensive short-duration treatments that are curative. HCLs also link payment to clinical benefit and should help lower per-patient cost while incentivizing the development of transformative therapies rather than those that offer small incremental advances. Moreover, we propose the use of securitization—a well-known financial engineering method—to finance a large diversified pool of HCLs through both debt and equity. Numerical simulations suggest that securitization is viable for a wide range of economic environments and cost parameters, allowing a much broader patient population to access transformative therapies while also aligning the interests of patients, payers, and the pharmaceutical industry.
Financing Drug Discovery via Dynamic Leverage2016
We extend the megafund concept for funding drug discovery to enable dynamic leverage in which the portfolio of candidate therapeutic assets is predominantly financed initially by equity, and debt is introduced gradually as assets mature and begin generating cash flows. Leverage is adjusted so as to maintain an approximately constant level of default risk throughout the life of the fund. Numerical simulations show that applying dynamic leverage to a small portfolio of orphan drug candidates can boost the return on equity almost twofold compared with securitization with a static capital structure. Dynamic leverage can also add significant value to comparable all-equity-financed portfolios, enhancing the return on equity without jeopardizing debt performance or increasing risk to equity investors.
Lessons From Hollywood: A New Approach To Funding R&D2016
In this article, we suggest an alternative structure for undertaking the long-term, high-risk, highly capital-intensive R&D programs that typify science-based settings. We refer to this structure as a project-focused organization (PFO). PFOs are entities that are created with the sole purpose of conducting a specific R&D project. When the project is completed, the PFO is disbanded, residual returns (if there are any) are distributed to investors, and intellectual property and other assets are sold off. We think PFOs are an attractive alternative to both the traditional vertical integration model and the traditional venture capital/entrepreneurial startup model. We discuss how such PFOs could work in practice, using the example of biopharmaceutical R&D, although we argue that the structure has much broader applicability.
Megafunding Drug Research2015
As price-gouging practices by a handful of drug companies attract headlines, one troubling aspect of the story remains underplayed. Exorbitant increases in the prices of existing drugs, including generics, are motivated not just by crass profiteering but by a deep skepticism about the economic feasibility of developing new drugs. That skepticism is justified.
Traditional models for funding drug development are faltering. In the US and many other developed countries, the average cost of bringing a new drug to market has skyrocketed, even as patents on some of the industry’s most profitable drugs have expired. Venture capital has pulled back from early-stage life-sciences companies, and big pharmaceutical companies have seen fewer drugs reach the market per dollar spent on research and development...
FAQs for Megafund Financing2015
A document answering frequently asked questions about the megafund idea.
Funding Translational Medicine via Public Markets: The Business Development Company2015
A business development company (BDC) is a type of closed-end investment fund with certain relaxed requirements that allow it to raise money in the public equity and debt markets, and can be used to fund multiple early-stage biomedical ventures, using financial diversification to de-risk translational medicine. By electing to be a “Regulated Investment Company” for tax purposes, a BDC can avoid double taxation on income and net capital gains distributed to its shareholders. BDCs are ideally suited for long-term investors in biomedical innovation, including: (i) investors with biomedical expertise who understand the risks of the FDA approval process, (ii) “banking entities,” now prohibited from investing in hedge funds and private equity funds by the Volcker Rule, but who are permitted to invest in BDCs, subject to certain restrictions, and (iii) retail investors, who traditionally have had to invest in large pharmaceutical companies to gain exposure to similar assets. We describe the history of BDCs, summarize the requirements for creating and managing them, and conclude with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the BDC structure for funding biomedical innovation.
Financing Translation: Analysis of the NCATS Rare-Diseases Portfolio2015
The portfolio of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) rare diseases therapeutic development program comprises 28 research projects initiated at the preclinical stage. Historical data reveal substantially lower costs and higher success rates but longer preclinical timelines for the NCATS projects relative to the industry averages for early-stage translational medical research and development (R&D) typically cited in literature. Here, we evaluate the potential risks and rewards of investing in a portfolio of rare-disease therapeutics. Using a “megafund” financing structure, NCATS data, and valuation estimates from a panel of industry experts, we simulate a hypothetical megafund in which senior and junior debt yielded 5 and 8%, respectively. The simulated expected return to equity was 14.7%, corresponding to a modified internal rate of return of 21.6%. These returns and the likelihood of private-sector funding can be enhanced through third-party funding guarantees from philanthropies, patient advocacy groups, and government agencies.
To Cure Cancer, Provide a Profit Motive2014
Translating scientific research into safe and effective drugs takes money—lots of money. Current estimates put the cost of developing a single successful drug at more than $2 billion by the time you include all the dead ends along the way; the out-of-pocket cost for just a single attempt is about $200 million. Drug development usually takes a decade or longer, and the probability of success is low (historically around 5 percent for oncology). As a result, investors are now shying away from the pharmaceutical industry, investing instead in less risky and more attractive opportunities like big data, social media and e-commerce. Financial engineering techniques can help change that, directing capital from those wishing to invest it to those who need it to develop new drugs.
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.
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.
Can Financial Engineering Cure Cancer?2013
Traditional financing sources such as private and public equity may not be ideal for investment projects with low probabilities of success, long time horizons, and large capital requirements. Nevertheless, such projects, if not too highly correlated, may yield attractive risk-adjusted returns when combined into a single portfolio. Such "megafund" portfolios may be too large to finance through private or public equity alone. But with sufficient diversification and risk analytics, debt financing via securitization may be feasible. Credit enhancements (i.e., derivatives and government guarantees) can also improve megafund economics. We present an analytical framework and illustrative empirical examples involving cancer research. Open-source software available in the link above.