Biotechnology Innovation During COVID-19

Innovation has always been a key driver for the biotechnology industry. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still significant progress in the discovery and development of innovative drugs. Franklin Equity Group’s Evan McCulloch and Wendy Lam are excited about three areas of innovation within biotech that they believe will continue to create value in the long term.

In the past few months alone, the COVID-19 pandemic has already made a profound impact on every sector within our economy, and like every other sector, the biotechnology industry will continue to navigate the effects from COVID-19 for months and possibly years to come. However, despite the many challenges that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, the key growth drivers for biotechnology have remained intact, and importantly, we believe the industry will continue to generate innovative new drugs in both the near term and the long term.

Innovation has always been a key driver for the biotechnology industry, and even as COVID-19 presents new headwinds to the drug development process, we believe that any disruption to health care innovation will be temporary. For this reason, our long-term investment outlook remains positive.

In particular, we are excited about three therapeutic classes that have been especially innovative and disruptive in recent years: adoptive T-cell therapy for cancer, precision oncology drugs and gene therapy. We expect these three categories to transform the standard of care for many difficult-to-treat diseases.

Adoptive T-Cell Therapy

The concept of cancer immunotherapy involves harnessing the power of a patient’s own immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy has been shown to be highly effective in certain tumor types, driving long-lasting remissions in some patients. There are several different kinds of immunotherapies available, but one that we are particularly excited about is adoptive T-cell therapy. This involves the use of immune cells or T-cells—which are either collected from the patient or in some cases from healthy donors—that are modified and then expanded before being infused back into the patient.

We are excited about these cell therapies because some have been able to generate long-lasting remissions in difficult-to-treat patients who have failed multiple lines of therapies and would otherwise have no other treatment options left. Most of the products in development have been focused on hematological cancers and melanoma, but we are optimistic that cell therapy can be used to address other solid tumors such as lung cancer as well.