Launching A Prevention Policy Agenda

5 mins to read

July 13, 2023


James Peyer and Adrienne Hallett

Prevention might be worth a pound of cure to the individual, but to the American healthcare innovators, cures are worth much more. It’s a well-known axiom that America has a sick-care rather than a health care system.

Our ultimate goal at Cambrian Bio is to develop primary preventive medicines, but the sick care system persists.

So, we visited the Nation’s capital.

We talked to elected officials and administration experts, advocates and think tanks about the medicines Cambrian is developing and the challenges inherent in developing preventive medicines.  

Adrienne will be talking more specifically about those challenges in upcoming posts from our policy blog An Ounce of Longevity, but first, a few reflections:

1) In policy circles, most people think of longevity science exclusively in terms of behavioral interventions. That’s not terribly surprising given the popularity of shows like Limitless and the fact that medicines based on the biology of aging are just starting to make it into human trials. But even the prevention policy experts we spoke with hadn’t heard about the possibility that life-extending medicines for mice could be tested in humans.

Our Takeaway:  We are very early. Those of us in the field need to continue talking about this work, but when we do, we need to assume our audience is starting from scratch. You’ll see our policy blog go back to the basics, laying the groundwork to fill this gap.

2) Immediate concerns dominate the conversation. Again, not surprising when there are so many immediate concerns in our world.  But it’s a significant factor to note.  There is a great deal of focus on the budget’s impact for future generations. There is concern over the impact of rising deficits on one side of the aisle and concern over the impact of budget cuts on the other side. But who that future generation might be is left vague and there is little evidence that anyone is considering what might be expected of them in a world where they are outnumbered by seniors for the first time in history. The demographic shift and aging of societies happening in our world are not a significant part of the US budgetary debate.

Our Takeaway: Shifting demographics may be one of the most important reasons to invest in the prevention of aging-related diseases, but it may not be the most compelling argument in Washington…Yet. We’ll keep thinking about this.  

3) Recent drug approvals are being watched closely by legislators, starting with cost but not ending there. Anti-obesity drugs, and the associated muscle and bone density losses, were on the minds of everyone we spoke with. Given the enactment of drug pricing policies in 2022, one might have expected the focus to move on but it seems as though the focus might expand beyond cost.

Our Takeaway:  In today’s world, generating the data to prove effectiveness for FDA approval is essential but perhaps not sufficient. The drug development industry may need a new story to tell about how scientists, biotech, and pharma are creating more value for society with their medicines rather than just increasing healthcare costs. Granted, we’re biased, but we think inexpensive preventative medicines will be a key lever to drive this point home and unlock support for future innovation. As a field, we believe we have a good story to tell and we think the time is ripe for that pivot.  

And pivot, we did. When questions came up about the muscle and bone density losses associated with GLP-1 agents, we used the opportunity to talk about Amplifier Therapeutics, one of our pipeline companies working to develop a safe and effective AMPK-activator, with the goal of maintaining healthy metabolism through aging.  

We love talking about Cambrian’s science and the promise it holds for public health.  

While this was our first foray into Washington policy circles, it won’t be our last. We’ll keep talking about demographics and science and PREVENTION.  Stay Tuned!