most suitable for investment, and can provide the building blocks
to support a valuation or product forecast to receive funding.
As well as identifying the opportunity, the risks in the market need to
be highlighted so the team has the capacity to put in place
contingency plans, managing them to a degree that doesn’t
jeopardise the eventual return on investment.This can take the form
of a competitor, whether direct or indirect competition, adjacent
technology and upstream changes to the treatment or diagnostic
pathway.All of these factors can erode the potential, and in some
cases, it could potentially lead to a form of creative destruction.
The application of ‘longitudinal’ thinking
One of the real challenges for innovators in the healthcare space
is to have a perspective on what may happen in the future that
might impact their product or offering. It may feel a bit like having
a crystal ball, but this longitudinal perspective could allow you to
modify or adapt your offering to ensure it continues to align with
an unmet need. It’s important to have your eye on the trends in
the current market as your opportunity may disappear over time
and no longer be relevant. A good example of this ‘risk-awareness
thinking’ would be the impact of the cervical cancer vaccine to
address human papilloma virus (HPV). Unlike the majority of
diseases, which have an incidence population continuously
contributing to the overall prevalent population, an infectious
disease, like HPV, will not just prevent the patient receiving the
vaccine from getting HPV, it will limit the future spread that will
lead to a reduced incidence population and shrink the overall
prevalence patient pool. Unfortunately for an innovator who is
developing a treatment or a diagnostic specific to cervical cancer,
as these vaccines become successful, the original eligible patient
population will shrink to a commercially unsustainable level for
their novel offering.
The application of ‘lateral’ thinking
Along with having a long-game perspective on what the market
may look like at the commercialisation stage of your product
development, it’s equally important to ensure you have not missed
a trick with where the optimal utility is for the product. There are
numerous examples of where innovative technologies have started
off being used in a completely different area before finding their
way to their ultimate niche.
Thinking beyond the original constraints of the technology to apply
it in areas where there may be untapped potential requires lateral
thought processes to try and identify other unmet needs that
could be fulfilled. The possibility of exploring markets and patient
populations that may not have been immediately obvious or
aligned with the original intention is a simple and effective way of
extending a product’s commercial viability and success.
This could be as simple as applying the technology to other
related disease populations which share similar characteristics as
well as a common unmet need, for example a technology
originally intended to monitor the presence of lung fibrosis in
idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis but then finding utility in other
fibrotic lung diseases.
In more complicated areas it may be a case of completely re-
envisaging the use or application of the technology by distilling
the original idea down to its fundamental components and
reconstructing it in a different manner. Keeping with the example
of fibrosis, if the targets are viable, then a technology which
highlights fibrotic processes could be re-purposed to mark tumour
margins as an aid in cancer surgery.
Since unmet need is centred on both the magnitude of the need
and the scope in terms of the number of patients, this can be an
effective way of contributing further to better health outcomes and
Are you ahead of, or behind, the curve?
Timing in the markets can play a key part in a technology’s
eventual commercial success. Some of the most amazing
technology invented will not be fully appreciated, because it is
perceived as ‘ahead of its time’. In the case of healthcare, this
could mean a diagnostic being available for a specific disease but
with no follow on treatment available. Understanding the patient
treatment journey and alignment with the current and future
standard of care will eliminate any unwanted barriers to access or
restrictions on use.
The way forward
Whether you are seeking funding from private investors or through
the grant process like Horizon 2020, a strong understanding of
the optimal utility for an innovative healthcare solution will require
alignment with a current and future unmet need in the healthcare
system. To give you the best chance for technical success in
delivering your solution, and financial success with a compelling
grant application, this will require a degree of longitudinal and
lateral thinking to ensure you have maximised the potential and
highlighted those hidden opportunities.
Having this clarity on what could impact you directly or indirectly
within the market landscape could help you avoid a potentially
painful realisation of the solution’s limited utility and the
elimination of your team’s many years of hard work. Using robust
data sources like the Epiomic database can provide you with the
precise information that will support this long term potential.
Not every market risk can be mitigated, but being aware of the
potential challenges is the first step in addressing the potential
problem and adapting the solution to ensure future success.
Managing Director for Analytics and Forecasting
Black SwanAnalysis Ltd
+44 (0)1628 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.blackswan-analysis.co.uk www.epiomic.com www.horizon2020projects.com
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