Wednesday, December 2, 2009
"A Sunrise Industry: Life Sciences and the Genomics Wave"
A cure for Alzheimer's? How much is that worth in lives saved, humanitarian karma gained--and dollars made?
"A Sunrise Industry: Life Sciences and the Genomics Wave"--that's the title of an important article in The Huffington Post by Fred Hassan, former chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough and current senior advisor with Warburg Pincus.
As Hassan explains, genomics hold out the hope of transforming healthcare altogether, through the greatest medical tool of all--actual cures. "For example, just imagine the costs we will save if we can prevent Alzheimer's, and keep millions of older Americans out of nursing homes. Good health will be good economics." That is, not "bending the cost curve" by rationing or anything that might be construed as a "death panel," but bending it by curing disease. Good health is ultimately cheaper than bad health.
And also, potentially, good health, and the preservation of good health, is a money-maker--a big moneymaker. If a company (say Schering-Plough) could actually develop an Alzheimer's cure, and could bring it to market, well, that would be a big market, here and around the world. Which would be jobs and growth and capital gains for the New Jersey-based company, and for all Americans, and for all the people of the world.
But whatever company takes the lead on this--that would be a stock to go long on.
Or, of course, we can have a medical recession, or worse, in the form of a bad healthcare bill that seeks to slow down medical progress in the name of slowing down the rate of medical costs. In which case, we won't actually save any money, except on some notional piece of paper conjured up by the Congressional Budget Office, but we will have slowed down, for real, medical progress.
Hassan's whole article is a must-read, but here's the best stuff:
Until recently, we have seen disease as a homogenous condition that affects everyone who has the disease in the same way. Now we know that afflictions like cancer are not one disease, but are rather constellations of many diseases that affect different people differently. Likewise, until now most medicines have been one-size-fits-all, even though we knew that they worked great in some people, and less so, or not at all, in others.
All that will be changing -- in large part through genomics. We are entering the era of personalized health care. Our health will be improved, and disease prevented, according to what we need and what we know about ourselves. It's the same kind of individualized steps that might go with personal financial planning or choosing a family vacation -- except with more certainty of success than most of us achieve through financial or vacation planning!
This is enormously exciting. It is why life sciences will be our country's most important sunrise industry over the next several decades. Because of this sunrise, the tens of millions of baby boomers can expect to live longer and live better. And because of this sunrise, we will also have the power to avoid billions of dollars in new health care spending. For example, just imagine the costs we will save if we can prevent Alzheimer's, and keep millions of older Americans out of nursing homes. Good health will be good economics.
That last point is worth repeating: "Good health will be good economics."
Posted by James P. Pinkerton at 7:43 PM