In this issue we set out to address a core question: How do different types of life sciences companies make money? So you will see stories along the lines of how companies can define the benefits from their inventions, and how regenerative medicine companies are finally reaching their paydays.
Yet, there’s another question that we also felt it was important to address: Can a company work for the public good even when there is little or no hope of turning a profit? We’re talking about entrepreneurs who are focused on drugs and medical devices targeted at caring for the poor here in the U.S. or in developing nations.
It was in one such article — our conversation with Una Ryan of Diagnostics for All and George Whitesides — that a particularly interesting observation emerged. Whitesides spoke of the overwhelming volume of insurance payments going into “end of life high technology solutions to staying alive for another couple of months.” His point was that there is greater long-term value in heading off pandemics at their roots and in quality, whole-life health care, nutrition and education.
Take Whitesides’ point a step further: Those “end of life” insurance payments often are the fuel for venture capital investment in our life sciences sector. Good drug, reimbursement likely, invest. Don’t forget tests administered for the sake of tests, as long as insurance covers them. It makes you wonder if we have to shake things up. Whitesides and others point out that if profits are crucial, even low-cost products for a market of millions can provide a nice return, regardless of whether insurance plays.
Now that we are spending so much effort and money on new health-care models, it’s time to take the long view on the global issues and opportunities. We don’t have to abandon the VC-insurance model, maybe just run a new model in parallel. Suggestions welcome.