Monthly Archives: January 2013

Is Planning a Waste of Time? Debunking the Myths, Planning for Success

Plans in wooden house beams

Whether you are building a house or growing your business, having a good plan will keep you on track!

By: Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

Planning done badly is a horrible waste of time.  However, not having a plan at all is even worse. Many of the following myths have contributed to the bad reputation that planning and effective project management has sometimes unfairly received.

            • “There is no value in planning. I know what needs to be done.”
              -A good plan will help you to identify and mitigate any risks that could cost you serious schedule delays, wasted money and unhappy stakeholders (eg investors, customers, team members).  By setting some time aside to create a plan, you will be forced to critically think about each step of the effort that needs to be completed to successfully achieve your goal.  In the process, you may discover additional needs or risks that may have an impact on your success.  This process allows you to essentially simulate how you would wish things to go before you have committed yourself, the team and your money.
      • “We have already started so it’s too late to start planning now.”
        -In an ideal world, you would first develop the perfect plan and then implement it.  This almost never happens.  Don’t just stop everything to develop your plan.  Take some time and work on this while you continue with your day-to-day activities.  The fact that you have already started will provide you with better insights about what needs to be done, and the true effort and costs that will be incurred
  • “There is no point in planning since there are too many unknowns.”
    -The purpose of a good plan is not to predict the future but to highlight the connections and inter-dependencies between all of the things you need to get done.   If your R&D team encounters some technical issues that you had not foreseen, how will this affect your product launch (ie how long will the delay be?)  Knowing the impact of both lucky breaks and frustrating delays will allow you to make reasonable changes to the plan to mitigate the effects of the unknown.  Letting your customers or investors know about a delay before it happens is much better than missing your deadlines.

Never be late or over budget again!
With a good plan, you will be able to see any missed deadlines or additional costs well before they happen.  As changes to the original plan occur (you should keep updating on a regular basis) you will be able to see any conflicts well before they happen.  This gives you the chance to find other solutions to keep things on track or if this is not possible, to let your stakeholders know about what is coming.  In this way, you can come to a new agreement on the budget and time required to get things done right.  You are not late or over budget, you are in control!

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Life Sciences New Market Risk Alliances: Instinct or Monte Carlo Simulation?

Roulette wheel up close

Be sure to listen to your ‘inner voice’ when assessing risk.

By:  Michael Kaiser

In the life sciences, as in other high-tech sectors, a New Market Risk Analysis (NMRA) is essential to the success of a new product development or business alliance. We can select two choices to undertake a NMRA: instinct based on experience or a Monte Carlo analytical simulation. In both cases there is one author: the human mind.

An imaginary NMRA  
The CEO of ABC, a medium-size public pharmaceutical company specializing in antibiotics wants to make a multi-million dollar investment in QED (1)a small biotech firm that has patented a new agent for the treatment of MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) detection. The ABC executive is aware that other companies are chasing QED as well. The potential for growth and revenue is impressive, given the fact that MRSA infections have become a serious health issue. QED has already benefited from a significant capital infusion from two VC’s and is starting a Phase III trial with a well known clinical research organization. The ABC executive has a lengthy meeting with his QED counterpart, who provides a convincing set of slides demonstrating the efficacy of their product in Phase I and II. Both parties had previously signed a CDA.

Upon his return, the ABC executive reports to his Board of Directors and his top executives. To their surprise, the CEO, a highly respected industry executive with a record of successful acquisitions with both his past and current employers, advises against investing in QED because he is not convinced that their product will remain a leader in the fight against MRSA, as well as carrying a considerable financial risk.  The Board Chairman of ABC asks the CEO if he signed a Master Services Agreement with QED during his visit, to which he answers that he did not because in all his successful 25+ years he has never been so uncomfortable about an investment, and therefore does not recommend it.

The Board has been very supportive of the CEO but fear that his experienced “gut feelings” will not convince ABC’s shareholders.  The CEO stands firm: his instinct tells him that something is not right with QED’s development program. In the end the Board decides to engage an experienced NMRA organization to conduct a Monte Carlo simulation of QED to confirm or contradict the CEO’s financial and scientific trepidations.  Once the results of the Monte Carlo simulation are in, they confirm the CEO’s feelings.  In the meantime, he moved to a top 10 global pharmaceutical company…

(1)   Latin for quod erat demonstrandum, to be demonstrated.

Resources:

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Where Does the Science Belong in the Life Science Startup?

Old microscope

Give your customers a chance to ask you about your science.

By: Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

One of the best things you can do for your new Life Science Company is to engage with potential customers through your innovative new technology.  However, there is a time and place for this.  The following simple Do’s and Don’ts will help you to get right what most companies (even some of the big ones) get wrong.

Although science is at the heart of your company, it is the products that you have created that are based on this science that are most meaningful to your customers.  Think of it this way, you likely selected your cell phone or car based on what these things can do for you and how they impact your life.  This is the same thing that happens when a Life Scientist is looking to purchase new products that will help their research program.

This means that it is vitally important to clearly communicate how your product (not your science) will impact a customer.  Once a potential customer is intrigued by your product, some of them (not all) will further be interested in your science and/or technology (often to validate the claims you made earlier).

Do:

Blog:
Start a blog (linked or part of your website) where you discuss your science.  Don’t make this an ad but share applications and ask happy customers to guest blog for you to connect with others in your field.  In time, this can help you and your company become considered subject matter experts which will ultimately drive new prospects to contact you.

Write White Papers
Pick key applications using your product and share them as white papers.  These should be accessible from your website.  Consider posting downloadable versions in a PDF format for convenience.

Produce YouTube video:
Creating quick 2 – 3 minute how-to videos and/or application notes in video format is a good way to take advantage of this medium.  When people are searching for solutions on the web, having some videos can help improve your rankings and your chances of showing up high on the first page of the search results.

Create Tradeshow Booth Graphics:
Have compelling graphics that catch the eye and perhaps some copy that emphasizes the impact of your product (e.g. allows you to measure something new for the first time, is higher throughput than the competition, produces data with tighter CV’s etc.)  You will have plenty of time to discuss science should visitors wish.

Don’t

Explain your science or technology on your Website homepage:
This is where you clearly indicate what you are offering.  This is what you offer not who you are.  (A quick survey by the author of over 500 Life Science company websites showed that nearly 80% of them got this wrong)

Load Brochures and other Sales Collateral with lots of content about the science:
Make sure that the number one message here is how your product will positively impact your customer.  On longer format pieces like tri-fold brochures, a brief very high level summary of the technology behind the product can be appropriate but his should clearly take second place to helping prospective customers see how your product or service will affect their research program.

In Summary:

  • Put the impact of your product on your customer’s research first in your marketing communications
  • Back up your claims with the science in a succinct  way
  • Create a separate page on your website where all of the detailed description and other resource material can be easily found

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Life Sciences in 2013: Startup Opportunities and Challenges

girl on beach at sunrise

Use these Life Sciences market insights from 2012 to maximize your opportunities in 2013

By:  Michael Kaiser

The New Frontier: Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics
The Human Genome Project opened the floodgates for three closely intertwined disciplines:

  • Bioinformatics provide new database methods to store genomic information, evaluation of experimental data and improvement of molecular techniques.
  • It incorporates data from multiple departments within pharma/biotech companies and it is a critical tool for the design and management of smart databases.
  • Genomics is an area that is the vehicle for a dramatic increase in therapeutic and diagnostic pipelines, with a worldwide market potential in the billions of dollars. Genomics is divided into structural and functional areas, the former involving the use of genetic and molecular methods to develop genome maps, the latter aims to discover the biological function of particular genes in health and disease, primarily through high-throughput screening techniques.
  • Proteomics has been described as the link between genetics and pharmaceuticals. The fulcrum of this discipline lies in the proteome, the complement of proteins that are key to the discovery and development of new drugs and this fact explains its scientific and commercial importance for the biopharma sector.

The foregoing demands exposure and experience in dealing with academia, scientific personnel and the highest levels of corporate decision marketing.

Healthcare
The analysis of epidemiological trends allows biotech and pharmaceutical companies to direct their drug discovery and/or marketing efforts. Significant business opportunities exist for development and licensing. For instance, biomaterials may include implant prosthesis, fiber optics for minimally invasive implant or corrective surgery, and biochemical suturing, a significant business opportunity in improving healthcare and a significant contribution in reducing healthcare costs.

Home work
An essential component of the life sciences, it covers areas such as intellectual property, field of use, royalties, head-of-agreement terms, etc. Complex negotiations require the expert advice of specialized legal counsel, experience in business and corporate development, inclusive of technology evaluation (licenses, patents, time-to-market) and last but definitely not least, investor relations.

Competition
Here the key is: “Understand your competition as well, if not better than thyself“.
To that end the development of net-centric skills in knowledge management and data mining proved to be very useful to start-up and established life sciences companies in the planning of their corporate strategies. A clear understanding of e-commerce and sales and marketing tools is now an essential requirement in competitive analysis.

Entrepreneurship
To be one is to understand one. A background in multinational corporations and start-up companies is a plus. Ideally, the entrepreneur will thrive by working in an innovative, fast-paced environment. However, the reality of the economic marketplace dictates that equal attention be given to the ‘intrapreneurs’, those individuals who, from within a formalized corporate structure, implement effectively the vision of the entrepreneur. This is a truly symbiotic relationship.

Globalization
The liberalization of world trade and the integration of regional markets such as the EU, NAFTA and ASEAN dovetail with organizations such as the WTO and GATT. Paradoxically, in the process of lowering trade barriers the pendulum has swung too far and we see an increase in protectionism by both industrial countries and newly industrialized ones. The fact that the Internet has become an effective business facilitator has not replaced the personal contact in science and humanities. In a global economy, dealing with diverse cultures is a clear and professional success marker.

Mergers and Acquisitions; Strategy; Technology Evaluation
The impact of IT on the life sciences has accelerated the process of consolidation and integration in the life sciences, particularly in those cases where a large pharmaceutical concern and a biotechnology company with a valuable technology platform are concerned. Shareholders, institutional investors and venture capitalists have much higher expectations, with a short time horizon, for a return on their investment.

To meet this challenge, due diligence and expert advice in investor relations, marketing and corporate development will allow start-ups to identify and execute the driving forces of this process. The cost of mergers and acquisitions requires careful analysis of corporate synergies, innovative financial instruments and fundamentals, experienced investment bankers and financial institutions, assessment of net present valuation and internal rate of revenue, evaluation of technology and future corporate strategy, top management succession, and ability to transfer technology across corporate and international boundaries.

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