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Discovering the Perfect Partner

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August 23rd, 2013
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This is Part 3 in a series of blog posts on best partnering practices for life sciences and health tech companies. Read the previous posts in the series for Part One, and Part Two.

A lesser-known fact about Isaac Newton’s famous quote, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” is that he wrote it to rival scientist Robert Hooke, praising Hooke’s work. As we now take the next steps toward forming strategic partnerships, the application of the quote for us is that help may be found in unexpected places.

When we work with clients on partnering strategy, we combine the step of looking for categories (e.g. markets, segments, regions) with the steps of identifying specific companies that may represent attractive potential partners. We often will present the result of this exercise as a matrix, with the categories as columns and the companies as rows. It can look something like this (but may have much more refined categories than this example): Read the rest of this entry »

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New WellPoint Plan Increases Healthcare Consumer’s Level of “Skin in the Game”

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July 9th, 2013
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When Warren Buffett used the phrase “skin in the game,” he referred to company managers investing in their own companies. In healthcare, we’ve discussed how equally important it is for consumers to also have some “skin in the game,” bearing at least some responsibility for their costs of care.

A recent Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) discusses how WellPoint, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, has developed a group plan in which consumers would be responsible for the cost of medical services in excess of that offered by their employer plans. While WellPoint’s idea doesn’t appear groundbreaking at first, this type of plan would dramatically shift the dynamics of healthcare costs.

Here is how the Journal’s Anna Wilde Matthews described the WellPoint plan: Read the rest of this entry »

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Strategic Steps Two and Three on Creating your Big Picture

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June 11th, 2013
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Albert Einstein once said, “The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder.” While product development processes differ from scientific discovery, they still can be a subject of wonder for many a life science executive. In a previous Popper and Company post, I addressed the first step toward successfully introducing a new product or service, namely knowing where you are in the process. In this post, I’ll cover two more important steps to commercialization: determining the right partner and refining your strategy.

Step Two: Pick your partner (and your partnership arrangement) wisely

When looking to commercialize a healthcare innovation, the first item of consideration for most life science companies is usually money. But a number of other important issues need to be addressed before positive cash flow becomes a reality. One matter is looking for organizations or people who can help you. The most common need of a new enterprise or startup organization is a partner with development expertise that you and your firm may lack. Read the rest of this entry »

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Small Strategic Partnering Steps Can Create Your Big Picture

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May 21st, 2013
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For a new life sciences company seeking to partner early in its development process or even for an existing company in need of a partner to advance a product or technology, creating an overall strategy isn’t as easy as it sounds. After having worked with dozens of life science companies – of various sizes, stages of growth and points along the product development cycle – I’ve identified a series of “steps,” that provide a sense of strategic direction as you seek partners in the journey from the laboratory bench (or work room) to market. In this post, I outline the first step – knowing where you are in the strategic partnering process.

Step One: Know where you are in the strategic process

Many companies have a strategy developed already. In other cases, they don’t. Some life sciences companies are in very early stages where they have technologies or intellectual property that might be of commercial value, but haven’t formulated thoughts on where the innovation might have the most value, or where the easiest path to value might lie – particularly from a partnering perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

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When Seeking Partners, Look for the un-Usual Suspects

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April 1st, 2013
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For many new and growing companies, it’s not enough to have a plan for identifying strategic partners. You also need to successfully implement the plan—and that’s often easier said than done.

Reaching your company goals will no doubt require more capital, perhaps new investors to inject that capital, more third-party involvement, and probably a partner to help with product commercialization. New outside stakeholders add another dimension to your goals; now you’ll need to see how your product/service fits into someone else’s strategy.

How do you find the right fit? The answer actually lies in getting creative in a way that expands the universe of potential partners. Read the rest of this entry »

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Quantified Self: We Get the Data, But Where’s the Information?

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February 19th, 2013
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Now that a few of the year’s first conferences with a “future of health” or “digital health” focus (e.g., the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference) have passed, I thought it would be a good time to consider whether consumer-oriented digital health products truly affect outcomes, as often promised.

CES featured an abundance of consumer-oriented devices to measure fitness and track physical activity. There are a growing number of companies – like Jawbone, Fitbit, Nike and Withings – that offer tracking devices, or are introducing new versions. They’re all fairly imprecise by some standards, and measure a variety of parameters, such as number of steps per day, body temperature, heart rate or galvanic skin response, that are then analyzed to measure fitness in a non-specific way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dealing with the Growing Power of “Medical Googlers”

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November 7th, 2012
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The increased use of the internet by healthcare consumers has led to at least two types of medical conversations ironically illustrated by two different online features sharing a name: the “DocTalk” here, in which Arizona kidney specialists share treatment information on smartphones, and another “DocTalk,” where Ontario physician Stuart Foxman discusses such communications issues as the risks of physician’s giving too much information, and the growing irritation among physicians with patients who research conditions and treatments online.

Like it or not, these two “doc talks” are merging. While physicians and other providers are busily keeping up with changing practice parameters, medical literature and patient management (increasingly by computer, smartphone or tablet), patients are trying to keep up, too. WebMD receives more than 40 million hits a month, and anywhere from half to 80% of all Americans have used the internet to research a medical condition or symptoms. Even larger medical providers like Kaiser Permanente encourage the use of websites for gathering medical information. In addition, consumers increasingly have the ability to research and share opinions on their providers through sites like www.vitals.com.  Interestingly, the ability of consumers to rate and offer opinions on providers is not growing quite as quickly as other industries, due to reasons we’ll cover in a future post. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Physician’s New World of Consumer-Driven Healthcare: A View from Eric Topol

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September 25th, 2012
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We’ve had a lot of discussions about the waves of changes happening in healthcare, thanks to smartphone- and internet-fueled consumer power. In a recent Popper and Company post, Caroline Popper discussed how consumers’ access to information, expectations from the medical profession, focus on wellness (instead of disease) and determination of value are changing the industry.

Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, presented another face of this consumer-driven change; the effects on doctors. In this Medscape video presentation, Dr. Topol suggests that doctors, no longer the sole holder of personal health information, will need to change how they approach their practices as well as their patients.

Consumers are getting health information from many sources. For example, companies like Walgreens are increasing the information content of their consumer interactions. By educating its customers on the data generated by the devices Walgreens sells, patients have more knowledge of their own condition – and a knowledge base that does not start with the physician. Thus, the patient enters the doctor’s office with a more thorough basis of information and more challenging questions. This information base may make physicians uncomfortable, just as direct-to-consumer ads from the pharmaceutical industry have discomforted many. But, as Dr. Topol points out, physicians will continue to have an important role; it’s just going to be a different one. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New Healthcare Model Rising from Tradition’s Ashes (and Tim Berners-Lee)

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September 10th, 2012
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Marketing is dead,” proclaims a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, adding that traditional marketing (i.e., advertising, corporate communications, PR, overall branding) doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are finding more personal ways to make buying decisions and increasingly do not value general “push” efforts (other than perhaps to become aware of a product/service).

But what of healthcare? The perspective in the HBR post helps us understand that traditional provider-dominated sharing of healthcare services is also dead. We’re beyond the point of believing what we’re told, particularly if the person doing the telling is a representative of a company and thereby being paid to endorse a particular product or service.

Instead, the model has shifted to one of validation. Consumers conduct research, join online community groups, and listen to trusted influencers. These developments are everywhere now:  discussion groups (e.g. PatientsLikeMe), which connect people by diseases, can often provide more information on an individual’s specific symptom/disease than physicians who, limited by time, tend to be more generally focused. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can “Portfolio Theory” Be Applied to NIH Funding Decisions?

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May 17th, 2012
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The National Institutes of Health has faced some critical fire lately: for funding studies that don’t turn into treatments, for not paying enough heed to the “valley of death” (the stage between bench science and clinical trials), and for not funding enough basic research because of budgetary constraints. But few have asked: how could the agency better select prospective projects?

Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston published an intriguing theory: base NIH funding similarly to how investment companies handle portfolios, complete with return on investment calculations. But what would a rate of return be in biomedical research? Years of life saved per dollar spent, say Andrew Lo and his colleagues in their paper published in PLoS One.

But as the authors and others admit, “years of life saved” is probably an overly simplistic measure. Perhaps the authors were trying to make a point in the most extreme way possible. Read the rest of this entry »

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