Unleashing the Immune System | American Funds

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Investment Insights

May 2015

Unleashing the Immune System

“We are in the middle of a massive renaissance in health care, and we are still in the early stages.”

— Rich Wolf

Richmond Wolf
Richmond Wolf Investment Analyst Los Angeles office 19 years of experience (as of 12/31/15)
Innovation in biopharma has changed the pharmaceutical industry, and the way we treat cancer

Renewed focus on research and technology boosts biopharma revenue growth

Source: EvaluatePharma®, March 2014, Evaluate Ltd, www.evaluate.com. Data are based on sales totals that include conventional, biotechnology, other unclassified and over-the-counter sales.

Cancer has a cloaking mechanism that’s so efficient the immune system can’t see the disease. That cloak of invisibility, however, may soon be pulled away thanks to revolutionary new approaches in immuno-oncology, which harnesses the patient’s own immune system to recognize and fight cancer.

The key is the so-called programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) and programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibitors, which could form the backbone of many future cancer therapies and pave the way for big revenue streams at some pharmaceutical firms. The PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors remove cancer’s ability to hide from the immune system.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck have been among the companies leading the charge in this area. Both have been developing immuno-oncology therapies for a number of different cancers, including skin, lung and breast cancer. These treatments are the ultimate in personalized medicine, finding and attacking abnormal cells regardless of the type of cancer.

The pharmaceuticals industry is in its most innovative period since the 1990s, thanks in large part to advances in technology and genomics. After a decade of patent expirations and increased regulatory scrutiny, as well as undergoing a wave of consolidation in the 2000s, pharmaceutical companies are now spending more money on research and development focused on curing some of the biggest diseases of our time.

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Statements attributed to an individual represent the opinions of that individual as of the date published and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capital Group or its affiliates. This information is intended to highlight issues and not to be comprehensive or to provide advice.