Medical research can be an electrifying experience as novel ideas are turned into life-altering solutions. On the other hand, research can also be incredibly frustrating, especially when your work has reached a desired result; yet, you’re not certain it will connect to a market.
Inventions run the gamut from simple solutions to the extremely complex, but that shouldn’t deter you from planning for a successful introduction of your new technology—even if it does result in a niche product.
According to Nimra Taqi, associate director of licensing at Mass General Brigham Innovation, “It might be many years before we know whether novel medical research will be a success.” She continued, “We meet with every researcher to guide them through the licensing process, and at that time of assessment, there’s no way to predict if the technology will find a market.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding new product development, there are number of things researchers can do, Taqi says, to position technology for market adoption. Consider the following:
Envision what the commercial product will be, and which patient population it serves. The larger the potential for demand, the more likely it will be positively received. If you’re uncertain of the market fit, identify potential industry partners already in the space, ones your product would complement. In many cases, your licensing manager already has connections with industry and can facilitate a conversation. If there is a potential fit, work with your licensing manager to protect your intellectual property (IP) before engaging with industry. Only then should you seek to determine interest in partnerships.
Commercial partners are looking for technologies that enhance, strengthen, or complement existing solutions. Sometimes, they’re looking for technologies to help them enter a new market. In either case, industry places higher value on technology whose data demonstrates promise and represents high reward and low risk.
Taqi advises, “Technologies that address unmet needs for smaller markets typically receive less investment and require proof of efficacy. The more an investigator can de-risk their research, the greater the likelihood they’ll be received positively.”
De-risking research is more work for an investigator, but it can pay off. Consider the following strategies to de-risk a technology and incent industry to invest:
Supporting your technology by obtaining additional funding can lead to further interest at time of licensing disclosure. There are many opportunities for early funding, at the department level, organizational level, and from external sources. Within the Mass General Brigham system, several funding sources are available to researchers:
“When researchers are awarded funding from internal sources, it signals to industry that this technology is important,” confirms Taqi. “Investigators can use this funding for prototyping and validation, which are essential proof points that the market is looking for.”
It may be true that, in general, the highest investments in research are earmarked for technologies that address the largest patient populations. That doesn’t mean that industry isn’t interested in smaller market, or niche technologies, or that your research won’t, ultimately, end up being the next Enbrel.
The fact is, no one really knows at the time of disclosure how large, or small, an invention’s contribution to medical science will be, but, if you follow the advice outlined in this article, you’re more likely to find the right partner to help shepherd your technology to market.