Andrew Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of finance at MIT Sloan. Screenshot via MIT Sloan
Andrew Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of finance at MIT Sloan. Screenshot via MIT Sloan

For those whose families are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, new drugs to treat it can’t come soon enough—and they won’t, says MIT economist Andrew Lo, unless drug development strategies change. Testing drugs for Alzheimer’s is more time-consuming and complicated than for many diseases, and the research tends to focus on a single avenue of exploration; Lo extrapolates that current rates of discovery place the next big breakthrough sometime around the year 2274 [sic].

Last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Lo (with co-authors Carole Ho of the biotechnology firm Genentech, Jayna Cummings of MIT Sloan School of Management, and Kenneth Kosik of the University of California at Santa Barbara) proposed a radical model: a $38.4 billion injection of public and private money into a “portfolio” of 64 parallel research approaches.

The Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of Finance at MIT Sloan, and director of the Institute’s Laboratory for Financial Engineering, Lo is familiar with cost-benefit analysis. But as he put it in an MIT News interview: “Can we afford it? I think a more pressing question is, ‘Can we afford not to do something about this now?'”

Read more from the Boston Globe.

Learn how Lo also proposes to leverage the tools of finance to cure cancer.

And see why Lo made the list of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2012.

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