Organized by Biotech Connection Singapore in partnership with Stem Cell Technologies and ETPL, A*STAR on Thursday, 25 June 2015. The workshop was on Biomedical Commercialization and Product Development and the two speakers were Dr. Cyrus Eduljee and Prof. Philip H. Phan.
Dr. Cyrus Eduljee, Manager of Product marketing at StemCell Technologies spoke at length about general strategies during product development, right from the ideatory stage to actual product designing and commercialization. As a part of working in StemCell Technolgies, he is responsible for guiding the successful product development, commercialization and marketing of products used for studying the immune system in research, pharmaceutical and diagnostic applications.
His talk was on two main topics- developing research or diagnostic tools (goods or software) and developing therapeutic agents.
He gave a couple of pointers about how people should instrospect when they feel they have a good idea, which they may want to develop and commercialize. Many a times, people have an idea for a product, and they assume that if they can design a product that people could use, then they would buy it – but the big question is do customers (B2C) or businesses (B2B) want to buy it? However, you need to assess, if the product is actually buyable! You need to see your value proposition – what is it that you are providing people, that solves a real problem and is better than what your competitor is offering? How is the end user going to value it. Most importantly, the economics part of it – will people be willing to pay for it?
He suggested that, developers or inventors need to look at the customer first, and then worry about the product, because if you approach it vice-versa, it is going to fail. You need to have a clear understanding about your customer and what they really need. If it is not done, then you will end up designing a product and in retrospect try to figure out who would buy this? Maybe no one or very few people.
Quoting the great motor giant, Henry ford who once, famously said- “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, he said customers may not know always, what they want. If you have a really great and innovative idea, like a new model car- which runs faster and has lesser drawbacks compared to say, the horses – then people may be more willing to accept the idea of the car. Also, customers will buy technology which they think will last for a longer term. An example of this was the battle between BluRay technology Vs HD/DVD which saw BluRay making long-term gains in the market.
The second speaker, was Prof. Phillip H. Phan, who is a Professor and Executive Vice Dean at The Johns Hopkins University Carey Business school and a core faculty at the Johns Hopkins Medicine Armstrong Institute for patient safety and quality. His core areas of research are in the management of innovation and he gave some pointers about the considerations for managing exits in biomedical commercialization.
He spoke about the various research labs which are constantly innovating and how they need to start thinking about a way to derive economic value from the discoveries they have made. One of the many ways to achieve that is a startup and he spoke about the considerations one must have before pulling the parachute.
He said, “It doesn’t mean that just because you have pulled the parachute and you exit, that the work therefore stops, all it means is that you are deriving some value for what you have already done so that the next stage of work can occur, perhaps in somebody else’s hands.”
Many basic scientists see their life work in one particular discovery and the notion of lettting that go is very difficult for them. Many a times people in the academia- postdocs, investigators do not want to part with their idea, their product. It’s a tough choice- yes, but if they don’t think about an exit, then its highly unlikely to proceed given the conditions in the market and the way it works.
He spoke about how in many cases, an inventor is interested only in the discovery side and is not terribly interested in becoming an entrepreneur or do innovations to commercialize it. In such cases, they need to partner with innovators or entrepreneurs.
He also stressed about the importance of having early feedback of your discovery. Once you have the initial discovery, you need to start talking to the regulators, doctors, patients, families etc. If the hypothetical idea of the discovery goes to the market, you will get some early feedback that may actually influence the direction of your research and help you improve your product.
There are a lot of different stakeholders who come to play, when you decide whether an invention could be commercialized or not- like should you get an IP for it? Is the IP worth anything and therefore, can we monetize this IP when we exit at some point – either by building it yourself in your own company, or licensing it to another entity. Also a VC would be willing to invest in you, only if he sees some gains in terms of returns.
He concluded by saying that all of the above questions need to be asked as one develops a technology otherwise you might end up with a very cool idea which cannot be translated!
The workshop ended with light refreshments and a networking session. Some of the pics taken in the workshop are here.