Investors May Back a Revolution, but It Takes the People to Start One

May 19th, 2011
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A recent article posted by Luke Timmerman of paints a bleak picture for the state of biotech investment. He explains that the general public no longer views biotech as worthy of the almighty buzz factor, i.e., the magazine cover stories and TV morning shows so important to the elusive independent investor. He suggests that the biotechnology industry may never capture the public’s imagination again, a strong assertion considering the amazing things happening in genomic research, companion diagnostics, medical technology, telemedicine and other parts of the sector. But is the buzz factor the only thing that matters in an age of consumer empowerment? What about the equally powerful phenomenon of simply going viral?
In some ways Mr. Timmerman’s article, in which he speaks of investor excitement for TECHnology versus BIOTECHnology, may not present a fair comparison. Facebook and LinkedIn do not have an entity like the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that sends years of data to the trashcan more frequently than it approves a product for use. Nor do many technologies reckon with the complex reimbursement issues faced by products utilized within the healthcare system.

Clearly, the pathway to popularity and acceptance for a Linkedin is different from the pathway for a new clinical assay. Adoption of a new test or device is a challenge because it has to captivate a group of specialists (i.e., physicians) rather than the general public or patients themselves. Hence, Mr. Timmerman may be off in his analogy unless the general public becomes the primary audience that needs to be convinced the test is useful—changing the paradigm in which physicians play the directors in medical decision-making.
With all that said, I do believe the consumer is going to move the adoption of medical technology forward using tools like the iPhone.  My kids have no idea what life is like without mobile phones, for example. Just as they understand that much of life is accessible with their phones, they will likely want to use the power of their handheld devices to request a test or to influence the direction of their own health care.
Consumer driven health care is what will capture the public’s imagination. What are your thoughts about the power that consumer demand will play in future biotech investment? Share them here.

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About the Author:

I have 20 years experience in clinical research, including leading diagnostic and pharmaceutical clinical studies in disease areas ranging from cancer to infectious disease to cardiology, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Send me an email.