Samantha Yammine is a PhD Candidate in Dr. Derek van der Kooy’s lab at the University of Toronto studying how stem cells develop and maintain the brain. Samantha is passionate about science advocacy, policy, and education, and is an avid science communicator. You can find her sharing science straight from the lab on Instagram (@science.sam), and chat with her about the latest research and policies on Twitter (@SamanthaZY). For more information and modes of contact, please visit samanthayammine.com.
This week we saw late night comedy host Jimmy Kimmel brought to tears recounting his newborn son’s recent heart surgery.
For many, these tears feel personal as we think back on those we know who’ve suffered from illness. In fact, for many researchers in regenerative medicine, and most fields in biology, experiences like these are the motivational fuel for their long days in the lab.
We all want treatments and we want them now. But the truth is that good treatments take time, hard work, and a marathon of regulatory procedures. And all of these things require huge financial resources, yet with new biomedical innovations taking over a decade to bear commercial fruit, who’s willing to pay?
Well as it turns out, a lot of people. On May 1st and 2nd, over 1,000 investors gathered in Toronto for the 6th Annual Bloom Burton & Co. Healthcare Investor Conference to hear progress from established companies and start-ups, seek investment opportunities, and think strategically about health care funding from the private sector.
Bloom Burton & Co is a leading health care investment firm committed to creating pathways to commercialization for companies trying to break into the market with innovative health care ideas. Their annual health care investor conference seeks to bridge the gap between health care innovators looking for funding and advisory services, and eager investors hoping to make meaningful impact in the health care sector.
The conference began with one of the largest Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) market opening ceremonies, and had 66 public and private companies of varying sizes pitch their vision to potential investors.
Of those 66, only two were explicitly focused on regenerative medicine; however, many of them had broad applications that could apply to the regenmed community in the future. For example, microfluidics devices that could be helpful for purifying stem cells and their progeny, and patented biomaterials for controlled drug delivery.
This strategy of pursuing broadly applicable technologies that are ready today and can also be applied to regenerative medicine in the future could be a good way to help companies raise capital while still working on cell based therapies and other approaches that require a longer timeline.
I also heard hints as to the future of regenerative medicine from a member of the expert investor panel who remarked, “Regenerative medicine has great potential. It’s going to be an enormous innovation in the future, though we haven’t quite figured out how to make money in it yet.”
Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Bloom Burton & Co. Brian Bloom later told me, “I believe we’re going to see more products come to market, with a similar increase in revenue and profit as a result of those efforts, not in 15 years but in potentially five or less.” Which would be great for everyone reading this! But regardless of the number of years it takes, it’s clear the upfront costs will be high. Fortunately keynote speaker, President, and CEO of Acorda Therapeutics, Dr. Ron Cohen, reminded us, “Research and development is expensive… but so is health care in general.” From what I could tell, it seems investors are prepared for the high cost in funding technologies and treatments; I think my eyes were the only ones widening when companies disclosed how much they were seeking.
But in order to stay competitive in Canada, which is very much a buyer’s market saturated with more companies than investors, Brian Bloom adds that academic researchers need to remember the following: “not only are you benchmarking against other cell-based therapies, but also other pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical approaches to dealing with a certain illness and that’s the bar and hurdle you must jump over.”
Dr. Cohen also brought up a familiar Warren Buffet quotation: “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” This helps re-frame the challenge to one where industry and researchers alike do a better job justifying the cost to all stakeholders. By getting more people on board to support these large and necessary investments in health care of the future, we can continue growing a successful innovation culture in Canada and the broader international regenerative medicine community.