Skip to content


December Notes

I just finished the 2020 Prix Goncourt winner, The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier

It was phenomenal. I'm not sure what else I can say - go read it! 

How to Use Challenge Prizes by Santi Ruiz in Statecraft 

Prizes are near and dear to my heart. At a previous firm, we invested in two drug development programs economically dependent on the FDA's Priority Review Voucher (PRV) program, which functions somewhat like a prize. In an effort to spur innovation in disease areas with limited investor interest, PRVs are granted to developers of drugs and vaccines for neglected tropical diseases, rare pediatric conditions, and medical countermeasures. A PRV is a fungible ticket that allows drug developers to "skip the line" at the FDA, reducing final review and approval times from ~10 to ~4 months. This delta can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in NPV terms, depending on the size of the market for the drug in question. PRVs have sold for between $60-300 million+, and many of them were initially granted to nonprofits developing drugs for neglected diseases. Although somewhat convoluted, PRVs are functional prizes: you get one only if you successfully develop a drug addressing a pre-defined public health problem. You get no funding to develop the drug until you register it, so you need to convince investors that the PRV "prize" is worth the investment. 

Our success story was with a drug called moxidectin, which is an anthelmintic drug for onchocerciasis, or river blindness, a horrible condition that only affects the very poor people in rural areas. I won't get into the details of why this drug is important relative to the standard of care (hilariously, the current SOC is ivermectin of COVID fame), but I'll focus on the result: our fund as well as our partner NGO, Medicines Development for Global Health (MDGH), benefitted enormously from the sale of the PRV we received moxidectin was approved. MDGH has gone on to further develop moxiectin for other indications and has a pipeline of drugs for other neglected tropical diseases. MDGH's CEO, Mark Sullivan, was even named Australian of the Year! None of this would have been possible without a robust prize-like system like the PRV. 

Kwame Anthony Appiah in the Paris Review

Anders Sandberg on the 80,000 Hours podcast, discusses the far future of humanity, interstellar coordination, and the heat death of the universe. 

Principles of Vasocumpution by Michael Edward Johnson 

Telomeres (from Nintil)

I am very excited about the Vesuvian Scrolls