Cancer is the second-leading cause of death globally -- behind only heart attacks -- and costs more than $1.2 trillion. But if it can be caught in its earliest stages, survival rates can be significantly improved. The data-driven genomic approach is not only improving outcomes but also unlocking a ton of value for investors. Silicon Valley's venture capitalists have been quick to jump on this opportunity.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 22, 2018.
Shannon Jones: One of the things that I love about healthcare, and more importantly, the fusion of healthcare and technology, it's always interesting when Silicon Valley enters the mix. They have what I think and what you think is probably one of the biggest bets in healthcare right now. Simon, what can you tell us about Silicon Valley's latest big bet in healthcare?
Simon Erickson: Gosh, this is such an exciting time to be in the healthcare industry, as you know better than anyone. People maybe sometimes think of healthcare as this slow-moving dinosaur industry that hasn't really progressed in decades, but that's really not the case. This is an incredible time to be an investor in the healthcare industry because things are moving so quickly. What you're referring to as far as Silicon Valley is concerned is largely in the space of genomics, specifically in cancer treatment. We're in a day and age now where you're actually able to see a patient at a genetic level. We're able to see a patient's DNA. Of course, DNA is the building blocks of what makes us unique as an individual. When you're able to see more and more information about a patient, you can also personalize those treatment options that you have. For doctors, that provides much better outcomes. It's going to be a very good time not only to be in the healthcare industry, but also to be an investor in healthcare.
Jones: Absolutely. When you take the innovative approaches in healthcare and marry that with some of these high, high unmet need areas, and there's no hotter space right now in healthcare than oncology and cancer. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in this year so far. That's, of course, one aspect. There's also the economic impact of cancer, as well. They also reported in 2010, it was estimated that the U.S. healthcare spend was $1.16 trillion USD. Simon, diving into this space is super exciting not just for patients, but also from an economic perspective, as well.
Erickson: Absolutely. Shannon, you nailed it. The first part of this is more academic. For 20 years, it was trying to figure out the correlations between specific genes and diseases or conditions that would arise from this blueprint that is each individual. That was all pretty interesting. They've now identified more than 2,000 different hereditary traits. Some of those are height or hair color, but some are other things, like insomnia or other behavioral conditions. Of course, the most valuable and interesting for the medical community, as you mentioned, is cancer, oncology, this field of people that have very serious conditions.
The reason that it's so interesting for everyone right now is because cancer is not just uniform in how you approach it. For example, one of the most diagnosed cancers in the United States is lung cancer. There are more than 200,000 conditions that are diagnosed for lung cancer every year in the U.S. alone. It's skewed. Even though the overall survival rate after five years for lung cancer is only 17% -- this is a very serious cancer -- if you catch it at Stage IV, which is the latest stage for a cancer like a lung cancer, that's only a 5% survival rate. But if you can catch it at Stage I, you have greater than a 70% survival rate. So, for oncologists, the goal is not only to understand and correlate these academic purposes that we've looked at the genome for 20 years, but now that it's getting to the scientific community, how can we actually treat these patients in a personalized manner and catch it earlier on so that we can have a much better patient outcome and a higher survival rate for the most serious of conditions?