Karen Petrou: Another SVB Casualty:  U.S. Biomedical Research

2023-03-27T10:27:35-04:00March 27th, 2023|The Vault|

As seems always the case when fear has the banking system in its maw, myths have proliferated that are now also magnified and amplified by viral social media.  One such myth about Silicon Valley Bank has it that most of its depositors were high-wealth, high-tech folk whom the government should never bail out.  In fact, many depositors had no choice but to park all their funds at SVB, a more-then-dubious practice at the bank that almost brought biomedical research to its knees.  Had these depositors been forced to bear losses, treatments and cures for life-threatening and-changing diseases would have stalled, likely for years.  We need not only to prevent future researchers from being put at such risk by a single bank, but also to change the biomedical-funding model from one at the mercy of high-cost equity investors to a stable sector for which lower-cost debt is readily at hand for any researcher with demonstrable ability to repay.  Think what debt funding did for sustainable energy via green bonds and you’ll see what a like-kind model for “biobonds” could do to speed urgently-needed treatments and cures.

The link between SVB and biomedical research is not the stuff of moral-hazard myth, but rather a complex tale of a specialized institution serving a sector that came to hold unique sway over a vital public good:  lengthening life and easing suffering.  Providing banking services to venture capital (VC) is a high-risk business unless a financial institution devotes expensive intellectual capital to the sector and …