Entrepreneurship and Passion in Healthcare
Through this series of posts I will be writing for Opinno once a month, I will try to provide a broad view of what I understand are the keys for being a successful entrepreneur in biomedicine. In fact, my own experience -of over ten years now- can be an interesting example for all those wishing to pursue their dream and make a living from their “super idea” related to healthcare.
I always like to remember how I found myself initially immersed in this world of biotechnology. Having studied Business, I had always worked as a strategic consultant, and my knowledge of science or medicine was limited to what I could remember from my early days in school. While on a visit at Stanford University, I came across one of the best virologists in the world, Prof. Bruce K. Patterson.
He started talking with passion about a test he had developed for early detection of cervical cancer. That sounded really interesting. I hadn’t even heard about cervical cancer before, but I guessed it was something related to neck pain (my mistake of course was due to the meaning of “cervicales” in Spanish). Prof. Patterson was really excited about the opportunity to sell his technology in Europe, and he wanted me to be his partner. I immediately started working on the business plan, and my assumption was based on the population between the ages of 25 and 60, both men and women. Prof. Patterson could not understand why I wanted to include men, however I insisted. Suddenly, in front of a big crowd of scientists, he said, “my friend, I’m not sure about Spain, but my guess is Spanish men don’t have a cervix and therefore don’t have a risk to develop cervical cancer”. That showed my total ignorance of medicine, but despite that we did found Labec Pharma, and Prof. Patterson’s test, HPV OncoTect, is still the most powerful test for early diagnosis of cervical cancer, today.
Since then, thanks God, my knowledge of science has increased quite amazingly, enough at least to love what I do. If you were to ask me which I believe are the keys to success for entrepreneurs in biomedicine, I would point out three. First, pursue your dream. Do not abandon an idea you think is good. Work on it with your colleagues and test it, but don’t abandon it unless you are certain it is not reproducible. Second, spend time choosing your partners. This is probably the most difficult decision, but also the most important. Try to partner with people who add, or better multiply, your own skills. Hire a good lawyer and make sure everything is well tied up. Problems always arise when money starts coming in. Last, be patient but honest at the same time. Success does take time to arrive, and you have to fight a lot to achieve it. But at the same time, be honest with yourself, and be brave enough to admit it if you’re pursuing the wrong dream. Most successful businessmen have failed at some point. Only, they were brave enough to admit it, get up again and start fighting from scratch.
As head of Innovation Sales of Labco Diagnostics, the largest laboratory group in Europe, I am witnessing first hand the incredible speed at which biomedicine is advancing. In part thanks to genetics and advances in DNA sequencing technologies (i.e. massively parallel sequencing), we are now able to treat more efficiently certain inherited cancers or even predict illnesses. Our most recent commercial launch is a blood test for non-invasive prenatal testing, a test that can assess risk for Down syndrome or trisomies 18 and 13 with no risk for the mother or baby. Amazing, isn’t it? I will tell you more on my next post!