In the early 1930s, a team of scientists and researchers began developing the first polio vaccine, a disease that killed hundreds of thousands of people annually for decades. It wasn’t until 1955 — more than twenty years later — that a vaccine became available. After two years of mass immunizations, the rate of disease had dropped by 90%footnote1, and in 2020 there were only 672 reported cases of polio, globallyfootnote2.
Collaborating on the future of medicine
How private sector investment supports the research and development driving healthcare innovation
Life-changing discoveries like the polio vaccine do not happen quickly. It often takes decades for research to uncover promising new treatments or technologies. “Today’s generic drug was once someone’s moonshot,” said Brian Moynihan at the World Medical Innovation Forum (WMIF.) “The research — the thousands of times someone failed and the years and years of development — it has to be paid for and private sector support is key to discovering the breakthroughs that will help individuals and families across the world, now and in the future.” The 2022 WMIF, hosted by Mass General Brigham and Bank of America, focused on a promising area known as gene and cell therapy, an emerging technology that could eventually treat and cure diseases from cancer to Parkinson’s Disease. (To learn more about this and other promising areas of medical research, read The Disruptive Dozen, from the Bank of America Institute.)
Realizing such opportunity requires enormous commitments of both time and capital, much of which comes from the private sector. In 2020, such investments accounted for more than $161 billion, or 66% of total funding of medical research. Despite the high cost, the social benefits alone justify the time and resources spent — treatments and vaccines save millions of lives every year.
In addition to supporting research and development efforts, Bank of America works to increase healthcare access at the local level. Since 2021, the bank has committed more than $100 million to address disparities in healthcare within underserved communities. This has included low-cost, long-term capital to finance the development and expansion of community health care centers and other primary care facilities across the United States, as well as partnerships with American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association.