To me, prosperity means living a joyous, high-quality life. During my 27-year career as a health-care investor, I have been fortunate to witness significant progress in the understanding of disease pathways. Advances in understanding the biology of diseases are nothing short of revolutionary, and yet we are likely in the early years of this cycle. As medical standards of care lead to longer life spans for the world’s population, society will need to consider how individuals and governments will fund health care, such that people can maintain longer, more prosperous lives.
Heart disease and cancer are by far the world’s deadliest diseases, killing nearly 18 million people annually. Importantly, scientific advancements over the past 25 years have substantially improved the outcomes of cardiovascular diseases, specifically medications that lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which are now standard care. We are currently at a similar stage with cancer, as the ability to understand genetic mutations and abnormalities is leading to innovative new treatments.
Worldwide, the biopharmaceutical industry spends US$100 billion a year on research and development, and today, nearly half of that is invested in oncology R&D. Two novel drug classes are emerging: targeted molecular drugs, which attack the specific mutations that cause cancer, as well as immunotherapy drugs, which harness a patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells. These new approaches are already beginning to extend the lives of many cancer patients and, in some cases, turn cancer into a chronic, survivable disease.
The average global life expectancy is 72 years old according to the World Health Organization, and there are an estimated 450,000 centenarians alive today. By 2050, there could be 3.6 million 100-year-olds, and that number may rise. As a health-care investor and a business leader, this issue is top of mind for me. What does greater longevity mean for the health-care and financial services industries? Should governments and companies do more to address the longevity gap? How can asset managers deliver higher returns over longer periods so that our clients and our clients’ beneficiaries can live more prosperous lives? I don’t have the answers, but I know that every country in the world will need to find solutions soon.
Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s), are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice.