How much money is raised and spent in fighting cancer?
1. Cancer money:
The Stand Up to Cancer telethon — simulcast Friday night on all four major broadcast networks and 28 cable channels, and live-streamed on Yahoo and Hulu (available on YouTube, see below) — reminded me of a story I have long wanted to read: How much money is being spent on cancer research, where is it going and how well is it being spent?
This story, from the CBS Los Angeles affiliate, reports, “Stand Up to Cancer was established in 2008 by film and media leaders as a new collaborative model of cancer research.
“More than $261 million has been pledged to support its programs,” the report continued, adding that the organization “has funded 12 teams of researchers, two transnational research teams and 26 young scientists.”
A story from the Associated Press reported that organizers said $109 million was raised from Friday’s event.
Last weekend was also the Race for the Cure, run through New York’s Central Park, organized by the nonprofit foundation, Susan G. Komen. The group’s website says it spent $58 million in fiscal year 2012 on grants for breast cancer research. Numerous other nonprofits — such as the Lustgarten Foundation, which funded $13 million in pancreatic cancer research in 2013 — similarly target different cancers.
All that seems like a lot, except that the website of the National Cancer Institute, one of the federal National Institutes of Health, reports that Washington funded $4.8 billion in cancer research in the 2013 fiscal year, and funding has averaged $4.9 billion over the past six years.
As I continue to pay attention to health industry news for a book I am completing, I’m constantly reading stories about one philanthropist or another giving tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to support — and even build new edifices for — a hospital’s cancer research.
So what is the state of play? How useful is the telethon’s $109 million likely to be, compared to the billions available from the federal government and other donors? Does it raise the odds of progress or water down resources if 10 research teams are working separately on the same aspect of the cancer puzzle?
Is seeking donors to put their names on two or three cancer centers in the same city a matter of hospitals exploiting egos to build their fiefdoms? Or is it a true force-multiplier?
Is there something special about what the Stand Up to Cancer group says is its “new collaborative model”? If so, who are the most notorious non-collaborators?
Are there consultants who specialize in winning grants for hospitals and other research teams? Does their effectiveness undermine the mission by getting funds for less promising efforts?
In other words, is this like the government contracts business, where some contractors are better at winning contracts than fulfilling them?
How good is the National Cancer Institute at pulling the plug on research that has become a dry hole?
Where does Congress — which funds the institute — fit into the picture?
And where do the drug companies, who claim to spend their own billions on cancer research, fit in?
2. Alibaba and the China risk factor:
On the eve of the public offering of stock for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, being touted as one of the largest initial public offerings in history, it amazes me that this eye-opening New York Times story by William Alden last May has not gotten more attention.
Alden’s story delves into what the Alibaba prospectus reveals are the complicated corporate entanglements and potential conflicts of interest involving its founders, as well as the departures from U.S. standards of public-company corporate governance — all of which could victimize shareholders down the road.
Though the Times story only alludes to it, overhanging all these issues is the elephant in the room that shareholders, who some day may feel cheated by the Chinese founders bringing the company to market with all these potential conflicts and without the usual governance safeguards, are unlikely to be able to rely on U.S. courts for redress.
Similarly, with current tensions with Russia in mind, what protects American shareholders if the Chinese at some point decide to disenfranchise them completely?
So the story I want to see is one where a reporter finds investors who have attended the company’s roadshow presentations and finds out from them just how aggressively the bankers and principals selling the stock were asked about that and what their answers were. And which investors decided to plunge ahead anyway or to take a pass.
It’s not that Alibaba isn’t a juggernaut likely to keep prospering. It’s about whether the shareholders can really rely on participating in that upside.
Source | Reuters