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Equity Perspectives

video

Portfolio Manager Tom O'Halloran discusses how developments in genomics and health care are sparking growth—and what that means for investors. 

Transcript

Narrator: This is Lord Abbett's Portfolio Commentary.

Mike Weldon: This is Mike Weldon, Partner and Director of Marketing at Lord Abbett. Joining me today is Tom O'Halloran, Partner and Director of Growth Investing. Tom, welcome. We've talked a lot about the rivers of growth and what is driving the investment decisions around the Growth Leaders Portfolio. Specifically modern medicine. So let's talk about modern medicine and how you think about that in terms of investment opportunities within your portfolios.

Tom O'Halloran: Well, modern medicine is referred to as the killer app of Western civilization by Niall Ferguson in his book, Civilization, the West and the Rest. And it is pretty dramatic to reflect upon the fact that average life expectancy around the world was 29 years old in 1800, and it's north of 70 today. We take this for granted, like we take for granted U.S. mass consumerism and the Internet as if they were always here. Well, they weren't always here. They have unfolded in past decades and centuries, and they are currently a powerful source of future growth. So our portfolio in Growth Leaders will have at any point in time probably 15% to 20% in the healthcare sector to try to take advantage of the growth opportunities created by modern medicine.

Mike Weldon: Okay. Now one of the areas that you've talked about within modern medicine is genomics.

Tom O'Halloran: Right.

Mike Weldon: So talk about how genomics is transforming the healthcare sector.

Tom O'Halloran: Okay. When we look at consumer stocks, as we want to make sure we understand what is going through the mind of the consumer, when we're looking at the healthcare stocks, we need to have a good understanding of the science and chemistry of the body. And we have genes within us that contain the information that enable our cells to form organs and have the organs maintained in a healthy condition. However, these genes can go bad and hurt organs and lead to sickness and death.

And what has happened with genomics is, over the past 20 years, the cost to map or read the genomic, the genome of individuals has dropped by 99%, and it now becomes very economical to study the body's genes and that makes it much easier to develop drugs that can prevent cells from doing bad things. And we see this mostly, initially, in cancer, the disease of cancer, because, as I said a moment ago, cancer is genes that have gone bad or genes instructing cells that have gone bad.

Additionally, we're seeing big breakthroughs in rare diseases because rare diseases are typically inherited for the most part. And then secondly, they typically involve one or a small group of genes or/and cells. And so, by being able to read the genome, we are able to discover drugs for these horrible rare diseases that exist in the world.

And we need to think about the mechanism of action of these drugs in that the biotech companies are producing. You know, for a long period of time we've had chemotherapy which basically destroys drugs or cells, and the problem is it destroys cells around the bad cells that you're trying to destroy and so it has very harmful side effects. As we've evolved in biotech, we now have drugs that are targeting the bad cells and enabling them to stop replicating and doing the damage that they had been doing.

And so, a third wave of development in the biotech sector is what is referred to as immunotherapy, and our bodies have natural defenses and signals that we give to our cells so that they can operate in a normal fashion to do what they're supposed to do. And in many instances, diseases are caused by the immunotherapy system not functioning in the proper way, so new biotech drugs are being developed to help the body fight off disease. So, you know, I was up in Boston over the past weekend and was in Cambridge for the first time in 30 years, and I was just astounded at the growth of the biotech industry up there; and I really believe that biotech companies are going to be a much bigger part of the American capitalist system going forward because we can see why they're becoming successful because of the genomics revolution.

Mike Weldon: So Tom, what other positive things are happening in the healthcare system that are supporting the growth of some of the healthcare companies?

Tom O'Halloran: Well, I think, first of all, we have to reflect upon the fact that one of the reasons why health care has become such a big part of our economy and saved so many lives is that, in America, we have a system that respects property rights and a system of laws. And so biotech companies and pharmaceutical companies are able to spend billions of dollars developing drugs that they know will get a fair review in front of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and will have a period of exclusivity after they get onto the market. So I think that our legal system supports the healthcare industry as it should.

I would say secondly that the industry has become much more systematic. We have clinical trials which have very identifiable steps, and these are becoming much more efficient as we move out in time and that is helping drug development.

Thirdly, the FDA has become more accommodative. There was a period of time in the 80s and the 90s where pharmaceutical companies got to be very large and then, after the turn of the century, we learned about many of the bad side effects that some of these drugs had. And the FDA became a bit hostile, but it is now becoming and is now more accommodative, so that is a good thing.

And then the fourth thing is that information technology is being applied to the healthcare industry. So software-as-a-service companies and cloud-computing companies are helping the providers of medicine, doctors, become much more efficient and much more in control of their information to treat diseases and ailments and then, additionally, the clinical trials themselves are benefiting from this. So there are many, many things happening that are supporting the growth of the healthcare system and of the companies that are engaged in creative destruction within that system.

Mike Weldon: Okay. And finally, Tom, what are some other areas outside of biotech that you see as opportunities?

Tom O'Halloran: Well, biotech would certainly be one of the most dynamic of the healthcare sectors, but there are many companies that are involved in providing cloud-computing solutions to the healthcare system; software as a service, which means, basically, that they have some software of value and they're renting it out over the Internet to hospitals, research labs, et cetera. The companies that are developing the genomic machines themselves to read the genome are good companies for us to invest in.

And when we started talking about modern medicine a few years back, we referred to the consumer sector as looking good, feeling good, borrowing from the precious line from Trading Places. And we described healthcare as feeling better, and so the biotech drugs certainly do that, but also there are many minimally invasive procedures and equipment that are now being used. For example, in diabetes, instead of the injection every day, there are devices which make it merely a pinprick of insulin going into you. So there are many, many areas in health care, including biotech, that are offering very fine growth opportunities for the Growth Leaders Fund.

Mike Weldon: Okay. Thanks very much, Tom.

Tom O'Halloran: Thank you, Mike.

Mike Weldon: This has been Lord Abbett's Portfolio Commentary. Thanks for watching.

Narrator: For more information on this topic, or to access other videos, audio files, articles or commentary, please explore Lordabbett.com.

A Note about Risk: The Growth Leaders Fund invests primarily in large, mid, and small cap growth company stocks. Mid and small cap stocks tend to be more volatile and can be less liquid than other types of stocks. Mid and small cap companies may also have more limited product lines, markets, or financial resources and typically experience a higher risk of failure than large companies. Larger companies may have slower rates of growth than smaller companies. The value of investments in equity securities will fluctuate in response to general economic conditions and to changes in the prospects of particular companies and/or sectors in the economy. Investments in foreign (including emerging market) companies generally pose greater risks than those of domestic companies, including market, liquidity, currency, and political risks. These factors can affect Fund performance.

The Fund's portfolio is actively managed and may change significantly over time.

The source for average life expectancy of 29 years old in the 1800s to about 70 years old today is Longevity.ca/info_life_expectancy.

This broadcast serves as reference material for information purposes only; does not constitute an offer to acquire, solicitation for an offer to acquire, an offer to sell or solicitation for an offer to buy any securities, nor is intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research, or investment advice on any securities, and cannot be used for any of the foregoing.

The views and opinions expressed by the Lord Abbett speaker are those of the speaker as of the date of the broadcast, and do not necessarily represent the views of the firm as a whole. Any such views are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions and Lord Abbett disclaims any responsibility to update such views. Neither Lord Abbett nor the Lord Abbett speaker can be responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information offered.

The value of investments and any income from them is not guaranteed and may fall as well as rise, and an investor may not get back the amount originally invested. Please consult your investment professional for additional information concerning your specific situation.

This broadcast is the copyright © 2013 of Lord, Abbett & Co. LLC. All Rights Reserved. This recording may not be reproduced in whole or in part or any form without the permission of Lord Abbett. Lord Abbett mutual funds are distributed by Lord Abbett Distributor LLC.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY LORD ABBETT FUNDS, CONTACT YOUR INVESTMENT PROFESSIONAL OR LORD ABBETT DISTRIBUTOR LLC AT 888-522-2388, OR VISIT US AT WWW.LORDABBETT.COM FOR A PROSPECTUS WHICH CONTAINS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT A FUND'S INVESTMENT GOALS, SALES CHARGES, EXPENSES AND RISKS THAT AN INVESTOR SHOULD CONSIDER AND READ CAREFULLY BEFORE INVESTING.

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