I hate cancer.
I’ve lost one too many friends to this insidious disease and I’ve made it a priority to be part of the effort to find a cure for it. Every day, I draw motivation from the people I’ve lost in my work as Portfolio Manager of Oppenheimer Global Opportunities Fund.
I may not be a doctor or medical industry professional, but the work my team and I do has brought us to the front lines of the ongoing fight against cancer. The fund’s guiding philosophy is to invest in emergent growth companies that we believe have the potential to grow into large, highly profitable businesses.
Our search for these types of companies has given me renewed hope that we are closer than ever to finding a cure for one of the deadliest scourges humanity has ever known.
Oppenheimer Global Opportunities Fund invests in a number of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are developing breakthrough drugs that can potentially treat the disease more effectively without debilitating side effects, make it easier for patients to manage pain, and possibly even lower the cost of treatment.
The cutting-edge therapies that are in development may even pave the way to the ultimate goal—a cure for all forms of the disease. Of course, one glance at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website is all it takes to remind us we’re in a fight that often feels like an uphill race against time.
At some point in their lifetime, nearly 40% of the population will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the NCI. Last year in the United States alone, 1.7 million people received this dreaded news from their doctor, while nearly 600,000 people succumbed to the disease.
These statistics certainly make it fair to ask why I’m so optimistic about the future of cancer treatment and the potential for a cure.
Well for starters, just consider that geneticists have finally mapped the entire human genome. Today, 100 million people have had their genomes mapped, which has enabled us to confirm, for example, that there is a particular gene mutation that places some women at a high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer at some point in their life.
This is important on several fronts. First, it allows doctors to know beforehand whether or not a cancer drug will work on a patient due to the genetic makeup of the cancer. This means fewer drugs will be prescribed inappropriately. It may even help bring promising new treatments to market faster.
By knowing a cancer’s genetic makeup, drug trials can be conducted only on people with a high probability of success. In turn, this will result in less money wasted, better outcomes for patients, and ultimately, faster approvals by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other international regulatory bodies.
One of the largest holdings in the portfolio is in a company that develops and markets therapies that mimic a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. This particular company, which is headquartered in the U.S., recently developed a new antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology that allows its medications to attack cancer cells with fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
This firm has a number of innovative cancer medications at its disposal—including therapies for treating various types of lymphoma. The company continues to sign partners onto its proprietary ADC technology, and we believe it is well-positioned to earn millions in royalties over the long term, making it an attractive acquisition target for larger drug makers.
There are a number of European pharmaceutical and biotech firms in the portfolio as well, including another company that specializes in immunotherapy—which seeks to boost the body’s immune system to fight off cancer.
Analysts have predicted this company’s treatment for multiple myeloma has blockbuster potential. And although the drug is primarily used to fight blood cancer, there are signs that it could also work against solid tumors as well. Now beyond the “cash-burning stage” that afflicts most drug makers at some point, this company is on track to becoming a mature biotech firm that’s positioned for strong overall sales and steady royalty income in the near future.
Over the last five years, shares of this company have climbed more than 2,000% and we see potential for continued strong future growth.
I believe companies have a lifecycle—just like people do. There’s a beginning, adolescence, prime years, and an eventual decline phase. Companies usually begin as entrepreneurial ventures powered by the spirit of a startup. If they’re successful, they gradually mature into corporate entities and can enjoy an extended run of success. The decline phase typically takes root when companies get too big and bogged down by bureaucracy, regulation, and saturated markets.
The fund seeks to invest in businesses that still have exponential growth ahead of them. I’ve been excited to discover that there are quite a few companies like this at the forefront of the fight against cancer. Investing in these types of companies within the Oppenheimer Global Opportunities Fund can help clients achieve their desired investment outcomes, which is my top priority as a portfolio manager.
Combining this core mission with my personal desire to see cancer eradicated is one of the most gratifying parts of my job.
This article was produced by OppenheimerFunds and not by the Quartz editorial staff.
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