So why aren’t we seeing breakthroughs in the cure for pediatric cancer?

Technology has made it clear that the collection and analysis of information is our most valuable tool for achieving scientific breakthroughs. Computers today can collect and store billions of sheets of information from millions of sources, analyze millions of pages in seconds, and provide solutions that otherwise would not be discovered. So why isn’t this technology prominent in the search for eliminating pediatric cancer?

Here’s why:

  1. Investor expectations that reward companies based only on delivering higher financial returns without consideration for their contribution to improving the human condition.
  2. Wasteful, ineffective and inefficient spending.
  3. Reward and recognition policies that are tied only to individual performance and without consideration for collaboration.
  4. Broad-stroke application of laws and policies to all industries and institutions without consideration of how they may impact people.
  5. Absence of leadership to drive the building of a robust pediatric cancer database.

There are dozens of organizations devoted to helping kids battling pediatric cancer. These include hospitals and research institutions, charities and foundations, the private sector and government. To deliver the pediatric cancer cures and treatments desperately needed, these institutions will need to draw on the same technology that has delivered breakthroughs in other areas – a robust database and the power of artificial intelligence.

To know that technology exists today that offers the potential to end the horror of pediatric cancer is at our fingertips and to do nothing about it is unacceptable. In this and subsequent blogs, I will address how we can change the current state of research. Today I will offer compelling reasons for the private sector to modify its investment strategy – one that will encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in pediatric cancer initiatives that were previously thought to be unjustifiable. This is how the power of capitalism can be harnessed to improve the human condition.

We are at a moment in history where the corporate mantra of maximizing shareholder value alone is insufficient. Corporations should do more to better mankind – and they should be rewarded for it. In return, investors should reward them with higher multiples. Introducing the Millennial Corporation, where people who want to help make a better world invest their time, labor, and money.

Here’s why the time has come for many in the private sector, particularly pharmaceutical companies, to modify the strategic mandates governing their investment decisions:

Investors want it.

Individuals everywhere are concerned about our country, the world, its people and the environment. The horrors of pediatric cancer are at the top of the list of concerns for many Americans. “For these and other reasons, more people are investing their money to get back more than just a monetary return on their investment. Many are investing to make a positive impact in our country and around the world as well as to feel that societal concerns should be made an important part of their investment focus.” (1)

There is already demand: “Over the last two years, SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) has grown by more than 22 percent to $3.74 trillion in total managed assets, suggesting that investors are investing with their heart, as well as their head. In fact, about $1 of every $9 under professional management in the U.S. can be classified as an SRI investment.” (1)

Investment Companies acknowledge the need: “Our global goal is to develop a comprehensive, industry-leading platform of research, advice, and products that is dedicated to sustainable investing and philanthropy.” (2)

Signatories of the UN-PRI (The United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment) manage $59 trillion. This is the direction they are encouraging.

Pharmaceutical companies are under attack on many levels, including underinvesting in pediatric diseases and disorders, as well as elevated (and constantly rising) prices. Pharmaceutical companies, like other publicly traded corporations, are driven by increasing shareholder value when making their investment and pricing decisions.

Now is the time for the investment community and pharmaceutical industry to redefine the matrices for valuing this industry. Pediatric cancer would be a good place to start.

Employees want it.

“The millennial generation is poised to take corporate America by storm. It is simply a matter of numbers: this age group represents the largest generation ever, exceeding even the baby boomer population by 10 million people. The generation in between, Generation X, simply lacks the numbers to fill all the job vacancies that are being created as baby boomers retire and the economy sees an uptick in business growth. As a result, the millennial generation will comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce – and three quarters of employees globally – by approximately 2022.” (3)

“81 percent of Millennials have donated their time or money to a social cause. This generation is significantly more philanthropic and socially minded than prior generations. Not surprisingly, they are attracted to companies that share a similar responsibility.

“Unlike previous generations who were willing to overlook – or at least tolerate – corporate behavior that clashed with their own system of beliefs, this new generation of employees will more readily seek alternative employment if they do not feel that their work provides the ability to influence positive change.

“Solid social and environmental policies and community involvement are becoming key recruiting factors for companies who want to attract top millennial workers. Millennials feel an obligation to improve the world around them, and they prefer organizations that reflect this value.” (4)

Pharmaceutical companies rely on their ability to attract great scientific minds to their organization for their success. The Millennials are a pool of talent they will fail to attract unless they correct their profit-only practices. Modifying their investment strategy to accommodate a healthy commitment to curing pediatric cancer would be a good place to start.

Investors and tomorrow’s leaders expect more than financial rewards from the companies they commit to. There is a social conscience today that is real, growing and gaining influence. The time has come for the Millennial Corporation – the organization that is admired as much for contributions to improving the human condition as it is for sustaining profits.

The private sector, hospitals and research institutions, charities and foundations, and government unanimously agree that the key to curing pediatric cancer is the development and access to a robust national pediatric cancer database. For this to happen, some past practices will have to change.

This blog will hopefully inspire some in the private sector to take heed.

The Bridge to a Cure Foundation is the lead advocate for modernizing our approach to pediatric cancer, with a priority on building a pediatric cancer database to speed up the search for cures. We have met and gained the support of over 120 institutions and practitioners, including the NCI Director Ned Sharpless who has become a forceful proponent and driver of this initiative in Washington. To learn more about the foundation and add your support, visit http://www.BridgeToACure.org

Footnotes:
(1) Forbes, April 24,2013 – Socially Responsible Investing: What You Need To Know
(2) UBS editorial in their March 2015 newsletter.
(3) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor force projections to 
2022: the labor force participation rate continues to fall.” 
Monthly Labor Review, December 2013.
(4) Hiring Millennials: The Generation that Changes Everything by 
Rose Ernst and Tara Wyborny. Both work at Genesis 10.