Did you say Immunotherapy?
The health sector is both particularly dynamic and constantly evolving, driven by its capacity for innovation. Immunotherapy, a game changer in cancer treatment, is a perfect example. Unlike chemotherapy, immunotherapy targets the immune cells surrounding cancer cells, with the aim of activating them to destroy the diseased cells. While these therapies are very promising, their high cost and low availability make them rare and inaccessible. The investment required to develop them on a large scale is both significant and critical. Scientific and technological advances in healthcare also offer a wide range of investment opportunities. Companies and impact investors are at the heart of this transformation.
World Cancer Day, held every year on 4 February, is a time of calls for increased investment in resources and innovation around these treatments. The stakes are high: the number of diagnoses of the disease, the world’s second-biggest killer, is projected to increase by 60% by 2040. As an adjunct to conventional therapies, immunotherapy improves the effectiveness of treatments and increases the number of patients who are likely to benefit. Estimated to be worth more than $105 billion in 2022, the market for this revolutionary therapeutic approach alone is expected to reach more than $300 billion by 2030.
Still in its infancy, immunotherapy is a genuinely disruptive innovation for pharmaceutical companies. Anglo-Swedish group AstraZeneca is currently working on around 50 cancer treatment projects. The results of treatment with Durvalumab, presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress in 2023, speak for themselves. This monoclonal antibody, when combined with chemotherapy, doubles the cure rate compared with chemotherapy alone. There are many examples in the field of immunotherapy. Swiss group Lonza, which manufactures biological medicines, is a key player. It is both the factory that makes it possible to develop these treatments on an industrial scale and a partner in the development of new therapies by major laboratories such as AstraZeneca.
Another example is the German biotech company BioNTech, which develops monoclonal antibodies and uses messenger RNA technologies to treat tumours and cancer. In 2023, the German company announced the launch of clinical trials for a cancer vaccine.
As an area of innovation and research, the healthcare sector opens up a vast field of investment opportunities and sometimes unsuspected growth potential. While the stock market performance of the major pharmaceutical, biotech and medtech companies was mixed in 2023, we believe that 2024 should see a turnaround. The sector was hit by temporary factors such as the drying up of liquidity, anti-corruption measures in China and the impact of post-Covid overstocking. In a more favourable environment, more and more investment funds are extending their coverage to the most innovative companies, given the sector’s bright prospects. As a listed impact investor, La Financière de l’Echiquier (LFDE) stands out through its Echiquier Health Impact For All fund, which invests globally in listed companies whose innovations aim to improve access to healthcare.
Disclaimers: The fund is exposed to the risk of capital loss, equity risk, small and mid-cap investment risk, currency risk and discretionary management risk. For more information on its features, risks and costs, please read the regulatory documents available at www.lfde.com. The opinions expressed in this document are the fund manager’s own. LFDE shall not be held liable for these opinions in any way. The stocks referred to are given by way of example. Neither their presence in the portfolio nor their performance are guaranteed.
 World Health Organization, 2020
 Exactitude Consultancy, 2023
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