Articles tagged with: featured

“Healthcare Hero” for May – Barbara Handelin of Audacity Therapeutics

“Healthcare Hero” for May – Barbara Handelin of Audacity Therapeutics

Barbara Handelin of Audacity Therapeutics is on an important mission to change the way in which funds can be raised for drug development and/or repurposing to meet the needs of the 90 per cent of us who have a condition with no effective treatment. She and her team’s work may likely change an industry.

What I am talking about here is a change from focusing on headline-grabbing “blockbusters” engineered by Wall Street/Pharma,  to instead developing products to treat any disease based on huge medical impact vs market value.  ( much less profitable…but, nonetheless much needed.)

Given she is a woman with a Ph.D. with significant credentials as a pioneer in her field, is it proper to portray her in a cartoon? To place her important work and mission into a mini graphic-novel? A piece of art that appears as a circular mandala exhorting in an almost spiritual way why change is needed in the business model in her industry?

Yes.

If for one reason alone, the ability of a cartoon to get complex messages across in a visual fashion that is simple, colorful and impactful is undisputed. Otherwise, consider the near-impossibility of rendering 40 years of professional and industry experience and scholarly writings into a medium that doesn’t require its audience to have an advanced degree. But, to still come away educated and appreciative.

As any schoolteacher can attest to, the interest generated by a cartoon in its reader can often lead that person into a deeper dive and more traditional way in which to get educated and then take action on that learning.

So, take a tour of Barbara’s professional life and see if you can identify with the purpose and importance of her mission.  You do? You can reach her directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Before doing so, you might want to read her article titled “ We can have our medicines and afford them too.”

We Can Have Our Medicines and Afford Them Too

Rethinking Wall Street capitalism for producing medicines

We Can Have Our Medicines and Afford Them Too

After earning a Ph.D. in human genetics in 1987, I chose to enter the nascent biotechnology industry rather than pursue conventional academic science. Venture capitalists in Cambridge, Mass, and elsewhere had caught wind of revolutionary genetic discoveries in university labs and academic medical centers. They saw a new gold rush opportunity.

The credo, then and now, is to bet big money on ten startup biotech companies, and if just one develops a high valuation in a buy out or IPO, presto! Instant millionaires! While saving patient lives too!

I joined a small army of scientists, engineers, patent attorneys, and young CEOs who set out to radically redefine human disease and treatment from the DNA on up. We knew that once we delineated the molecular pathway of any disease, we could prevent it with early detection and target treatment right at the root cause; ‘targeted therapeutics’ like the “Silver Bullet” for cancer, remember? All this transformation was enabled by loads of venture capital. Those were heady days. We intended to bring medicinal chemistry (pharmaceuticals) out of the dark ages. I contributed to early game-changing products and technological innovations. Some of the early companies and products are still impacting people’s lives today.

Most public life science companies back then and today have zero revenue. That’s right, companies trading on NASDAQ value their stocks based on intellectual property (patent applications) and potential revenue. These are high risk investments. It seems only right that those early investors in life-saving technologies would or should expect high returns on these investments. Some of the early investors became, and are still becoming, very rich from IPOs and acquisitions.

My colleagues and I asked, so what is wrong with that? In fact, as scientists, we felt that we should be well-rewarded for our role in inventing life-changing medicines, as some of us did.

There’s a but…

This 35 year-old biotechnology funding model should no longer be exalted because it’s now working against our collective interests.

Despite a tsunami of molecular knowledge generated by academicians and industry researchers concerning human diseases, we have developed drugs for only 10 percent of the roughly 6500 human diseases we know about — and at increasingly stratospheric prices.

I attribute this to two significant and important facts:

  1. About 90 percent of human diseases are not addressed with medicines today.
  2. any medicines that are developed are made available only because they can be priced for profit, not for the larger human needs they address.

We perverted the purpose of biotech companies by how we financed them. As is true in life, so it is in industry. You get the behavior you reward. And the process is addictive. It starts with a new company accepting high-cost early venture capital funds, followed by private equity and bankers doing IPOs and mergers and acquisitions, and finally the intoxicating experience of arriving in public markets. Everyone is financially rewarded. Except the patient.

High-cost capitalization

The behaviors incentivized by what I call “high-cost capitalization” include:

  • Maximize prices, especially if the drug is novel or rare. David Axelrod saw something upside down in that thinking as he tweeted, “Your money or your life is a hell of a choice that people shouldn’t have to make.”
  • Patient populations are framed as “markets” to entice the discovery of costly blockbuster drugs.
  • Ignoring prevention and early detection technologies because they are not blockbusters.
  • Trade secrets and price preservation are pillars of the industry
  • Development and purchase of potential cures can be shelved to protect companies and shareholders if the profit potential is inadequate.
  • Generated profits are used contrary to the purpose of furthering healthcare research. Only 7-15 percent of profits are reinvested in R&D for new products; the rest goes to executive pay, stock buybacks, marketing and sales.
  • Lean efficiency is not a standard. As of 2022, it takes 10-15 years and about $1-3 billion to commercialize a new drug, positioning pharma in the top three most profitable industries on the planet.

Wake up!

In 2019, some colleagues and I said, “Wait! Are our labs in the business of forming companies so that we can ring the bell on Wall Street, or in the business of creating medicines that heal people? And if we want to work on any opportunity for improving lives such as repurposing old drugs for new disease targets (frowned upon) or any preventive or early detection test (no money in that), how could we ever get financed?

Sometimes events collide with ideas.

COVID happened. We saw what our industry could do when it addressed an urgent need, as opposed to targeting a “market.”

We saw companies choosing to make low-profit vaccines, and doing it within a single year. Not for $3B! We saw how testing companies were immediately funded to create PCR and home tests to meet a healthcare need, not a marketing plan. They found ways to capitalize that effort — for the public good. We can now see that placing health above profit is achievable – and desirable.

We saw an effort to share all data and technical know-how globally. Government and private industry worked together to meet this emergency. COVID vaccines and therapeutics have remained private intellectual property, not placed in the public domain as were the polio vaccines in the 1950s. Nevertheless, with taxpayer support we now can have all the medicines America needs. And we can afford them too.

Is this socialized medicine?

If you are talking about the industry sector in which my company is located, then no. It’s “conscious capitalism.” Audacity Therapeutics does not need charity, nor government programs, nor social or public services. We believe that private industry can and should be delivering on the public’s need for medicine.

But we do need some rethinking to bring that about.

We need more biotech and pharma companies, like ours, that are organized to operate differently. Companies that are financially able to say “No Thanks!” to high-cost capital.

Audacity Therapeutics is so-named because we had the temerity to ask what if there were biomedical and pharmaceutical companies with a healthier primary purpose and duty that could:

  • Develop effective therapies for untreated or under-treated human diseases, as many as possible.
  • Demand capital efficiency and a culture of deliverables, not promises
  • Focus on disease solutions opportunities rather than 10X return market opportunities
  • Prioritize medically valuable products for patients rather than capital value to financial markets
  • Guarantee that drugs are produced at prices affordable/accessible to all patients worldwide.
  • Provide fulfilling jobs and contribute to a balanced and just healthcare economy

From this ethical framework, we aim to prove that quality healthcare can be both profitable and affordable.

For more details, visit AudacityTherapeutics.com

All of You Medical-Debt-Inflicted Veterans Out There – Forward this Valentine’s Day Greeting to the VA! #EndVetMedDebt

Forward this Valentine’s Day Greeting to the VA! #EndVetMedDebt

All of You Medical-Debt-Inflicted Veterans Out There – Forward this Valentine’s Day Greeting to the VA!  #EndVetMedDebt

The VA will most certainly become your valentine – once they see to it that all of your unpaid and unpayable hospital bills are made available for legitimate and final debt forgiveness. Every. Single. Dollar. Forgiven.

Although differing in form, this wouldn’t be the first “modest proposal” made publicly for a cause that would benefit society. Jonathan Swift, in an essay by that title published in England in 1729. He made a strong argument that – since there the Irish at that time were painfully impoverished – that they should sell their youth to the English as food.

Our not-so-modest Valentine proposal is that a similar societal ill be addressed, the medical debt on the backs of current and former service members (our veterans). It is not so modest in that this debt has been estimated to be as high as $6 billion.

You weren’t aware that America’s warriors, who on joining the military, basically agreed to do whatever necessary to protect our country – up to and including loss of limb and life – would not be cared for by a grateful populace once that service is completed? Time to fetch the Smelling Salts.

OK – We’re Conscious – Tell Us More

To quote from my article in Physician Outlook that appeared on 2/10/22, “Whether you have a role in the VA delivery system or a civilian (physician) serving veterans at a public hospital, you are unwitting (unaware?) accomplices in bringing about the $6 billion in unpaid medical bills that the VA has refused to pay…or forgive…up to this point.”

You see, if someone has an injury or disability caused by military service, they are eligible to be treated by the VA for free. That same promise does not include treatment for a service-related disability outside of the system.

That’s not a typo, although it is difficult to know at this point how much debt is being and has been disallowed for payment by the VA for emergency services provided outside of their hospital system. As said earlier, at one point it was over $6 billion, but an appeals court ruling in 2019 contested that policy and is requiring the VA to reimburse vets. Is that happening? Has it happened? I don’t know. If you do, please let me know.

Being in debt is not even the worst part.

I can tell you that – whatever and however it is owed – the IRS would envy the collections apparatus for recovering those monies. Such as, reporting your past-due account to credit bureaus after exhausting months of their phone calls and dunning letters. 

Public blowback on this practice got so bad that, earlier this month, new rules were issued by the VA sharply to limit its credit reporting activities. As reported by Jim Rice of the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this month, the VA is instituting “additional protections to the most financially vulnerable veterans” which will result in a 99% reduction in reporting. (Italics mine)

That doesn’t mean they will stop attempting to recover on a past-due balance. A veteran owing as little as $25 will still be pursued. Not even a commercial collection agency (and I come from that world) would go after a bill that small. Forget the morality, it just doesn’t make business sense. Spending $100 to collect $25…and failing?

Formally Launched : A Campaign Titled #EndVetMedDebt

Beginning with this Valentine’s Day announcement and continuing through Veterans Day which will take place on November 11, 2022, a coalition of military and civilian organizations and individuals are forming to devote themselves to the task of seeing that VA unpayable medical bills be forgiven. Legally, and in full.

There’s precedent.

How forgiveness can be done while ensuring that there are no tax consequences to the recipient is a process that has been pioneered and perfected by the 501(c)(3) charity that I helped to co-found in 2014, RIP Medical Debt. It was a great ride, and after achieving all the goals I had set for myself and RIP I retired to its board in October 2020 to invent other channels by which to create positive social and economic impact. Out of this has come my present venture, Let’s Rethink This (LRT).

LRT will serve as a temporary platform until a formal #EndVetMedDebt website is revealed on March 1 – a scant two weeks from now.

To date, RIP has abolished over $5.5 billion in medical debt, positively affecting the lives of over 3 million Americans. It has published a seminal book on the need and reasons behind its work, put on first-ever summits on medical debt, enabled a major study of the costly impact of medical debt on our citizens and is now involving itself more deeply in influencing policy.

To be clear, this is not a fundraising campaign for RIP. This is a campaign that intends first to see that public awareness, federal legislation, VA policy changes – whatever works best – comes about so that this debt can be accessed and made available to organizations, such as RIP, which can step forward with their solutions.

Let’s Rethink This is only the originator of this campaign. Over the next eight-plus months we will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with scores of other organizations and individuals that share in this mission and its purpose. Are you one of them?

Please write us for more information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

So, Exactly What Has Let’s Rethink This Been Up to Since Its Inception and Launch in November 2020?

So, Exactly What Has Let’s Rethink This Been Up to Since Its Inception and Launch in November 2020?

The answer is…lots of rethinking. 

That’s quite useful when as a “Public Benefit” corporation our mission is to "do good in a fashion that benefits both shareholder and stakeholder.” What in the world does that mean? 

Simply, as a “B” Corp, LRT’s management can take into account social, economic and political considerations without being restricted by its fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the organization.

It’s kinda like rethinking profit-based corporations with no positive social impact DNA and nonprofits with no way to reward a donor with a return on their investment along with their charitable good. Some have termed it “Stakeholder Capitalism.”

We at LRT are marrying the best attributes of the two structures. 

We will use our economic and social resources to support worthy charities (check out our India ventures with goats and handcrafters – awesome) or even to feature individuals or organizations who don’t mind stepping on society’s third rails. A good example of that latter is Dr. Marion Mass and what she had to see in print, cartoon and interview

Stay tuned with our work and tune into the role you might like to take in furthering our mission. Investor? Client? Strategic Partner? Loyal follower? You can better inform that decision by reading our just-installed “Publisher’s Corner” piece titled “2022 and the Importance of Re.” Yes, as in rethinking, reassessing, recrafting, realizing, responding and reinventing.

LRT’s Impact Artist(s) for January – 200 Million Artisans!

LRT’s Impact Artist(s) for January – 200 Million Artisans!

We at LRT are getting a reputation for practicing the “Go Big or Go Home” approach to life and business, but we may well have shattered that ceiling. We’re not featuring one impact artist – we’re featuring 200 million of them!

Almost unbelievably, that’s in India alone. But then, India is the globe’s seventh largest country by area, second-most in population (1.38 billion people in 2020) and the most populous democracy. In retrospect, what better and more impactful way to begin the year 2022?

Few people realize the size of the artisan sector within their country’s borders. Even though this unique body of people is the world’s – yes, the world’s – second largest global employer, the public at large has scant awareness of its importance.

200 Million Artisans (200M) is about to change that, beginning with its home country.

Founded in 2020, 200M set out to rethink and reimagine the potential of India’s vibrant artisan economy. What is breathtaking about this organization is its growth, trajectory and the urgency of its mission. 

“Briefly, 200 Million Artisans is an India-based ecosystem enabler,” states the organization, “committed to reimagining the potential of the artisan economy. We bridge gaps in knowledge, resources and partnerships for artisan-producers and impact enterprises with the goal of driving greater inclusion and self-reliance in (that) sector.”

A “Made in India” Goldmine

According to 200M, “Crafts aren’t just India’s heritage, they are her global competitive advantage. They have the potential to ensure the overall well-being of the country’s youth, its women and its diverse communities.”

Their team has been busy driving research-based advocacy starting with unveiling Business of Handmade, a beautifully illustrated website that focuses on the relationship between the cultural economy and informality.

The Catalytic Capital Consortium(C3) recently awarded their enterprise $148,000 to further their mission and build on their existing work. 200M was one of only 14 organizations, and the only one in India, to receive the New Venture Fund’s Grant. 200M will be required to study, document and make recommendations for the role of catalytic capital in India’s artisan sector while mapping investment needs. 

This is the kind of left-of-center thinking (dare we say rethinking) that is needed when an organization wants to attract the attention of global actors like the Consortium which has its own grand plans: to create research projects that will help build an evidence base that will fuel additional risk-tolerant investments necessary to address critical global challenges.

This confirms LRT’s view and experience that impactful organizations and movers can change the world for good – if only people will become aware of them! Hats off to the New Venture Fund for recognizing and supporting enterprises such as 200M. NVF plays an important role in searching out these hidden heroes and heroines and providing the evidence that will encourage risk-tolerant investments.

It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.

What are the particular challenges unique to this sort of enterprise? We will be following up this article with a personal interview with the organization’s leaders – Priya Krishnamoorthy and Aparna Subramanyam – to find those answers. 


Let's Rethink This is licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) 4.0 License

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