The year was 1924.
The global economy was booming.
It was the decade of roaring prosperity and enormous optimism.
During this time, a carefree boy was growing up in America, living a privileged life. His name was Calvin Coolidge Junioris father was none other than Calvin Coolidge, the president of the United States.
Yes, this boy was lucky. Yes, this boy was blessed.
At the age of 16, Coolidge Junior was vibrant and precocious. As the son of the most powerful man in the free world, his future seemed bright. The opportunities for him appeared boundless.
But sadly, fate had something else in store for him:
- One day, Coolidge Junior was playing tennis with his brother. That’s when he rubbed one of his toes raw. He developed a blister, and it progressed into a staph infection. He suffered a fever as the sepsis quickly escalated.
- The best doctors in America swung into action to treat Coolidge Junior. But it was no use. The boy’s condition deteriorated. He was dead within a week.
It was a stunning turn of events. The shadow of grief fell over the White House. The president mourned the death of his youngest son — and America mourned with him:
- This tragedy was especially cruel because of a historical fact: penicillin would be discovered only four years later by Scottish doctor Alexander Fleming.
- Soon enough, penicillin became the world’s first mass-produced drug with the miraculous ability to fight and clear bacterial infection. This ushered in a revolution in healthcare. At least 200 million lives have been saved by penicillin since then.
- Unfortunately, Calvin Coolidge Junior could not benefit from this breakthrough. He was simply born and raised in the wrong time. Heartbreaking.
Source: Our World in Data
This sad story resonates deeply with me. Here’s why:
- I grew up in Malaysia, which was achingly poor and backward only three generations ago. Because of this, I have uncles and aunties that I’ve never met. They died very young. In fact, a number of them never even lived to see their 5th Much like Coolidge Junior, they simply couldn’t enjoy the benefit of modern healthcare.
- As recently as 1950, the age expectancy in Asia was only 42. But today, it’s well over 73. It’s staggering to realise how far we’ve come, isn’t it?
Yes, we tend to take medicine for granted. In this age of 24/7 media, people tend to have very short memories and even shorter attention spans. But, still, make no mistake about it. Progress in healthcare is always hard-won. Even today. Here’s why:
- It can take 10 to 15 years to develop even one drug. The price tag for this? Around $1 billion.
- Unfortunately, 90% of drug candidates in clinical trials will fail. For this reason, biotechnology remains a very risky sector to invest in.
- For sure, courage, vision, and sweat are required to develop new medicine, then bring them to market. Lots of cash is burned during this journey. The chances of success are very slim. Indeed, this is a business where failure is the norm, not the exception.
Nonetheless, speculative investors with a strong stomach for volatility and danger may still find themselves drawn to the biotech sector:
- For example, one Company’s stock price has experienced astronomical growth. It has surged 1,700% in 2023. Punters are excited because this Company appears to be making progress in treating a rare genetic disorder.
- However, the future outlook for this Company remains unclear. Plenty of obstacles remain. The level of risk here is extremely high…
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