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At last, biotech is set to change the world thanks to the backing of family offices

Biotech is poised to change medicine in the next 20 years. Many cancers will be cured, and dementia illnesses will be treatable, all thanks to biotech. But also thanks to family offices, which have signed the cheques for the biotech revolution. 

Doubt these predictions about biotech? Then look at how fast a vaccine was created to inoculate against the worst pandemic the world has witnessed in more than 100 years. It took just a few months to create an effective vaccine for Covid-19 prevention due to biotech. Groups like BioNTech, Moderna, and Curevac – all originally biotech ventures even if today they are billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies – led the race to find an effective vaccine.

The biotech revolution wouldn’t have been possible without backing from investors – and in many instances, backing initially came from family offices

Yes, developing vaccines for viruses like Covid-19 is one thing; developing vaccines for cancer treatments is altogether another thing. But they are coming. Already human clinical trials have been approved for a breast cancer vaccine. Other vaccines are being developed for prostate and ovarian cancer. 

It might be a bit further off for the treatment of deadly and more challenging cancers like pancreatic, lung, liver and brain. But much better therapeutics for these cancers will also emerge in the next 20 years. 

Dementia diseases like Alzheimer’s might have to wait longer than cancer for effective treatments. But within 20 years, just as tremendous advances will come about in cancer treatment, so will effective treatment of Alzheimer’s emerge. 

Of course, all these advances won’t just come about because of biotech working alone. No, biotech advances will work in tandem to many advances in other areas, like the better use of data, advances in software technology, and even quantum computers will hasten big advances in biotech. 

But the biotech revolution wouldn’t have been possible without backing from investors – and in many instances, backing initially came from family offices. BioNtech was backed early by Athos Service, the family office of brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, the German pharma billionaires, and Invus, a New York City-based investment group, whose main backer is Eric Wittouck, Belgium’s wealthiest individual. Invus also backed Moderna at an early stage. 

CureVac was backed early by Hopp BioTech Holding, an investment group owned by Dietmar Hopp, the billionaire software entrepreneur and one of the German technology group SAP founders.

Early this year, Family Capital put together a list of family/principal investment groups behind the biotech revolution – the BioTech 70. These investors have done just as much, even more, than institutional investors and the big pharmaceutical companies to create the biotech revolution. Whether they are Dolby Family Ventures investing in pioneering Alzheimer’s therapeutics, or Joe Lewis’s Boxer Capital funding in the latest cancer treatment, family offices are central to the biotech revolution. 

Cynics might say the owners of family offices are pouring so much money into biotech because of self-interest – they want to live forever, and biotech advancements might allow them to do so. Altruism, say the critics, plays little role. 

No doubt self-interest does play a role. But biotech investing is hugely risky, the development of therapeutics often requires massive levels of capital, and most biotech advancements usually take many years before successful outcomes. Many biotech ventures also fail, with investors losing millions of dollars. 

Given these challenges, family offices are among the few investors outside of governments that can play the long game when investing in areas like biotech. That’s why they are so crucial to the biotech ecosystem. 

In the next 20 years, when breakthrough therapeutics are available to treat cancer and dementia diseases, the investment side of these new drugs will matter little to those benefiting from them. And, that of course, doesn’t matter. 

But without the foresight of many family offices, their owners, and investment staff, biotech wouldn’t be the force in medicine as it is today. 

That is worth remembering.    

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