• Donald Davis

What Are the Odds

I hate to break it to you but Life Sciences is a tough place to work. Developing products and drugs are extremely challenging to deliver and the people that I have interviewed on my Podcast (Life Science Success) that deliver these products have a passion for what they are doing.

What are the odds?

In life sciences, if you are a new company the odds are that roughly 1 in 10 companies will survive to bring their product to market according to the SBA.

Drugs also have a tough set of barriers to get to market and less than 1 out of 10 will make it to being able to treat patients.

Additionally, as companies are looking for funding for their idea I have heard numbers like 1 out of 100 ideas evaluated received funding. If you would like to hear more about this topic you can listen to the Life Science Success episode with Jim Denison. His company used a rigid structure to evaluate 100 different ideas to land on the right one to invest in.

The odds in drug discovery are tough with roughly .07 drugs that will make it to launch according to recent data.

There are two things that are critical to both the diagnostic and drug discovery process:

1. Evaluate all projects critically before you begin. Many larger-sized companies have frameworks where projects are not only developed with all aspects of the company in mind. The challenges and risks should be evaluated along. Additionally, the customer Job wants to have done.

2. Fail early. If a project is going to fail you want it to fail in the early stages of drug or product development. The longer that projects drag on without either pivoting or pulling the plug the higher the cost of failure.

Given all of these challenges, the people that are focused on delivering the next life science drug or technology are passionate about what they are doing. Additionally, you have to be creative to see your way through the challenges that will come.

Eric Ries describes a process of evaluating your product development process where you consider Pivoting versus persevering. Persevering is continuing on as you were. Pivoting is changing direction which can take many forms. You can focus in on a segment, broaden your look, change direction entirely, change technology, change customer segment, etc.

There is a natural forcing function in a startup for pivoting versus persevering, you may run out of funding if you spend too much time on something that is actually going to fail you will most likely run out of funding and your product will die. Although this is natural many startups would benefit from having a process for evaluating progress and considering risk.

I would like to offer a different perspective for evaluating progress and considering risk. In product development in most larger companies, there is a formal process for developing products. It is a stage gated process that includes approvals from all areas of the company called an NPI (New Product Introduction) or NPD (New Product Development) Process.

These processes will follow the natural development cycle but the leadership team reviews progress, risk, and the potential need to pivot.

I have seen where people can get lost in the structure of the review but the purpose of these reviews is to ensure that if problems arise people are aware and challenges can be thought about early.

Smaller companies are generally creative and nimble at solving problems because they have to be. Being creative and nimble is important because it will help you creatively solve your problems and then move quickly to implement them. The one challenge that smaller companies have though is that they do not often have the structure to think through how to see problems before they happen and if the team is made up of less experienced leaders the problems will often happen like constant fire drills.

If you would like to work on creating a longer view so that you can see the odds with a clear perspective contact me.  

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