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Andrew Lo: Allow Financial Market To Fund Cancer Research

You know the mantra: Markets do it better. “It” being just about everything. From trading stocks, to pricing a Big Mac, to finding faster ways to sell mortgages to more people… well, on second thought, maybe not that last one.

The Great Recession may lead many to doubt the notion that markets can do much social good. But not MIT professor Andrew Lo.

“With proper financial engineering, I am absolutely convinced we can solve cancer, the energy crisis and global warming. I’m convinced,” Lo said.

Lo is one of the world’s leading financial thinkers. Time Magazine named him to its 100 most influential people list. And you heard him correctly: Lo believes that financial markets can play a key role in solving the greatest global challenges. Including finding a cure for cancer.

But part of Lo’s thinking stems from the fact that right now, most of the money that supports basic cancer research comes from the federal government. And remember the congressional budget brawls of the past year? The National Institutes of Health now faces deep budget cuts in 2013. So, tough times if you’re a scientist seeking NIH funding.

Lo says if the government isn’t adequately funding cancer research, financial markets can. And with the efficiency, risk tolerance and speed of innovation that are supposed to come with a market approach, Lo believes labs could be developing cures for cancer in 20 years.

Guest:

  • Andrew Lo, professor, hedge fund manager, and director of the financial engineering lab at MIT’s Sloane School of Management

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