Skip to Content

Brainstorm Health: Health Care Stocks, Emma Walmsley’s Glaxo Plans, NIH Cell Map

Hello and happy hump day, readers. This is Sy.

The stock market is on a high—and the health care sector is a major reason why.

The Wall Street Journal reports that health care stocks pushed U.S. indices to all-time records in the third quarter of 2018. In fact, the S&P’s health care index was, by far, its best performer in the most recent quarter, rising 13% over that timeframe (and during a period when stocks have generally performed well). And, according to the Journal, health care lags only tech stocks and the consumer-discretionary sector when it comes to market growth year-to-date.

So what’s driving the enthusiasm? For one, the health care sector is performing extremely well from a balance sheet standpoint. Profits are up industry-wide, whether you’re talking about pharmaceutical companies like Merck or insurance giants like Humana and UnitedHealth Group. Health care has also—despite some ups and downs along the way—been one of the major M&A drivers of the past few years.

Furthermore, the industry is one of the biggest sources of job growth in current times, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment of health care occupations is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs,” writes the agency. “Health care occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. This projected growth is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare services.”

That last sentence helps explain the stock market surge, too. Hedge and mutual funds have been pouring more money into the health care sector in part because it’s seen as one that can withstand the next financial downturn. After all, people’s need for medical treatment isn’t going away anytime soon, the thinking goes.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

The NIH wants to map all the cells in the human body. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Wednesday announced a series of funding awards meant to fuel one of its most ambitious projects: A full-on, cellular map of the human body. The so-called Human BioMolecular Atlas Program awards total $54 million over the next four years; it’s meant to help “develop an open, global framework that will support research community efforts to map the adult human body at the level of individual cells”—of which there are trillions, with a T(NIH)

INDICATIONS

Big pharma’s leading lady: Emma Walmsley. My colleagues Erika Fry and Claire Zillman have an absolute, must-read feature in the latest issue of Fortune: A profile of Emma Walmsley, CEO of British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (and the top spot holder on our Most Powerful Women International list). Erika’s and Claire’s wonderfully reported and insightful piece explore how Walmsley is shaking things up at a biopharma company that’s always been well-respected, but not necessarily thought of as a cutting-edge outfit in recent years. Check it out here(Fortune)

U.S., Cuba join forces on biotech. American and Cuban researchers are teaming up on a biotech venture that will be headquartered on the island and meant to bring cancer drugs to U.S. patients. The Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance is a project of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo, New York and Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology; it was originally dreamt up in 2014, when the Obama administration lifted restrictions on U.S.-Cuba relationships. Those diplomatic changes have been revised under the Trump administration; but this particular project is going forward. (Reuters)

THE BIG PICTURE

The rise of meth in the wake of opioids. CNN is out with a sobering report on an addictive substance on the rise in America—in this case, a non-opioid one. According to the outlet, “there has been a nearly tenfold increase in the amount of methamphetamine seized by US Customs and Border Protection, from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to nearly 82,000 pounds so far in 2018.” That’s coincided with a sharp rise in overdose deaths in states like Oklahoma. (CNN)

REQUIRED READING

Most Powerful Women Internationalby Erika Fry, Carson Kessler, Ellen McGirt, McKenna Moore, Polina Marinova, & Claire Zillman

Drug Dealers Are Winning on Social Mediaby Renae Reints

How China’s Rise as an AI Superpower Could Reshape the Worldby Clay Chandler

How the Auto Industry Is Driving Itself Into the Futureby Lisa Marie Segarra

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.