Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome to 2010: Biomed Research is down, Innovation is dying and healthcare is reform is dead

Welcome back everyone. It is a new year and a new decade - a time for hope and renewal.


Wrong, first of healthcare reform is dead, thanks to the Republicans and the Democrats. Since it is not fully well dead yet, I am going to hold my analysis till it's time to er, read the eulogy.

Additionally, it appears that we all like to swathe around in our own predictions - of reduced venture capital, stagnant FDA approvals and reduced biomedical funding.

I am sure there is definite truth to the studies and predictions. First, let's discuss them and get them out of the way.

The future belongs to the optimists. The others, well...

Venture Capital in 2010

The predictions are out. The wonder is - who is surprised? The VC industry will shrink this year. There will be guarded exuberance and there is the slim possibility that commonsense may have the ever so small, yet valuable role of playing a role in what companies will be funded.

Hopefully, this means at least a few well grounded ideas will get past the myriad of social networking sites, solar cell ideas, balloons coated with stuff and metal, er, stents coated with crap.

Is that such a bad thing?

Biomedical Funding is going down

Can you name the last blockbuster drug or device? The only ones I can think of are Provenge and Acclarent (their balloon sinusitis device was one of the first devices I reviewed when I was learning and trying to understand blogging - I will attach the post at the bottom for nostalgia).

If $101.1bn can barely bring two products to mind, both unrelated to the actual funding, you might worry as to where all the money went.

I am sure some of it went to enable high quality research, but when results are down, the motivation to fund something also goes down. Of course, one would be wise to look at other factors:

1. The economic reversal of the last two years

2. The ability of Government to understand science and it's willingness to fund it

Of course, it is always good to have a mix of private and public funding.

How about some austerity?

You know, fewer meaningless conferences in Hawaii and beer, and more spending on research? That should take care of any fall in funding. Right? Or did I touch some raw nerve?

How about infusing some pragmatism into the reason behind funding - not research, but product development. Tough times call for tough measures.

If you are such good scientists, then you should be able to find ways to cut corners, right?

The ones that do, will succeed.

Help, Medical Device Innovation is dying

Er, what innovation? Have you noticed how every "expert" that writes that healthcare reform (which is now being killed) will somehow kill innovation?

Which brings us to what these people think innovation is:

Is it related to the cardiovascular system?
Let's build a stent company
That won't work?
Let's throw balloons at it

Do we need to remove tissue?
Then let's try RF
RF won't work? How about monopolar?
Oh, that won't work?
Let's try bipolar.
Wait that won't work too?
Let's try microwave....

You get the picture right? All the lull in the economy has done is, it has slowed the barrage of stent and balloon companies.

I am not saying there is no innovation at all in the design and manufacture of medical devices, but most of the naysayers have no clue as to what innovation means. They just found a party line and stuck by it.

What is innovation to naysayers?

1. Do not take any risks - simply rehash a stent, balloon or an ablation company, throw single-use in the mix somehow.

2. Hire the same people who have "years of experience" designing the same old tried, tested and meagerly effective stents or balloons. (Did you know that to-date, not a single device has proven effective - in the real sense that is, against atrial fibrillation?).

3. In the name of R&D, run the hamster wheel. Follow the same procedures, the same paths that you have previously been down.

Why wouldn't such innovation be expensive, and, er, not be innovation at all?

Do you think stopping healthcare reform will save us from the free fall of such innovation?

The future

The future always belongs to the daring, not to the weak. So, if funding is down and the times are tough, well, it is time to buckle down and get things done! So, that should be the theme for 2010 - optimism, in the face of all that we see.

Ain't that a great way to start blogging in the new year, even if it is eighteen days too late?




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