I recently attended an interesting and informative meeting on this topic organised by the Oxbridgebiotech Roundtable (OBR). A well-informed and knowledgeable panel of experts gave their perspective on 5 major disease areas –
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
Conditions associated with these five account for a staggering one trillion $s-worth of healthcare spend across the industrialised world. This amount is increasing as our ability to manage (or eliminate) illnesses in middle age and overall life expectancy improves. Not surprisingly many of these are co-morbid conditions, and part of the reason for escalating cost of care is poly-pharmacy as patients take multiple drugs for the constellation of symptoms and risk factors that they have. Furthermore lifestyle and/or emerging characteristics such as obesity can be both cause and consequence of many of these illnesses.
The framework to discuss and debate these diseases was a simple 3 step one:
- promising research or avenues of investigation.
OBR may be posting a report on the main discussion points for each disease sector and I will add a link if that is the case. Suffice to say that there significant unmet needs in all sectors (despite the trillion dollar spend). There are also many promising new approaches and interventions in development, but it is still the case that significant opportunities for further innovation abound. As the discussion broadened it struck me that there are 3 common issues across all 5 disease areas which could benefit from innovative action and investigation. These three are:
- Fundamental research and applied understanding of inflammatory pathways
- Better trial design
- Improved patient engagement and support for behavioural change
In my experience, working with a wide range of stakeholders in the pharma industry and in the medical profession, there is a huge amount of effort being expended to better understand each of these three common issues. Unfortunately this effort and research is so often managed within a disease or discipline-specific silo. For example at any given moment there could be 5 or 6 different teams within a single pharma company looking at ways to improve adherence. There could be a similar number addressing basic and applied research into inflammation in different disease processes, labs and institutions. It is true to say that of all these three issues clinical trial design does benefit from a more open, shared perspective. However the key learning points from trialling novel designs or the implications of unexpected results are far less likely to be shared. If we could find a way to break down these silos by better sharing of information, practice and relevant outcomes then complementary rather than replicative or redundant effort would be expended across all three overarching challenges.
There were a number of start-ups or putative small businesses represented in the room at this meeting. Each of these probably has a promising idea, line of research or an innovative approach but is most likely tackling a single issue around a single chronic illness. Would it not it be valuable to harness and direct some of these innovations and entrepreneurial energy into the bigger common issues which could impact multiple diseases and multiple patient populations? In a competitive environment it may be challenging to bring different teams, groups and businesses together but surely we can find innovative ways to communicate better, share insights and break down those figurative silos?
In the Q&A at the close of this meeting budding entrepreneurs were keen to learn from the knowledgeable panel. One key question asked what financial backers are looking for in start-ups. Hamish Cameron, from SV Life Science, gave the following sage advice. There are four key elements which a new companies needs in place to successfully develop a product and build a business in biotech:
- The people
- The science
- The plan
- The funding
These 4 are noted in order of importance. It is the case that many potential new businesses have the first 2 elements in place, after all without these there is no idea to plan for or to gain funding for! It is also the case that there are plenty of funding opportunities and sources out there. Therefore the plan becomes a critical component in order to persuade backers that this is a business or a concept that deserves support and, most importantly, will bring a good return. Many start-ups have sound business plans in place, including market analyses, development plans and financial forecasts. It is increasingly important that these plans also have a value story and market access component. However in my experience this is not always included or, if it is, it may be predicated on assumptions and forecasts based on current not future market dynamics. Astrocyte Consulting are experts in business planning in healthcare and pre-launch commercial strategy in healthcare. We can help healthcare and biotech companies, big and small, established or start-up, ensure your business plan considers access, value and the rapidly evolving treatment landscape into which your innovative new product will be launched.
This topic was also discussed at the recent Biotrinity meeting and we will return to this in the next blog. In the meantime of you need help with your access plans do get in touch…