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most suitable for investment, and can provide the building blocks

to support a valuation or product forecast to receive funding.

Market landscape

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

commercial viability.

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

tel :

+44 (0)1628 621790

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L