Friday, March 27, 2009

Challenges and opportunities


Every year ends and a new year begins after 12 months. Different calendars have different New Year Days. That is the beauty of our world - the amazing diversity in wisdom, faiths, and thought streams. Today, under the influence of the English speaking world, the Gregorian calendar is the most popular in the world, 1st Jan is the New Year Day as per this calendar. However, for people speaking Marathi, Konkani, Telugu, and Kannada, the New Year Day is Ugadi (referred to as Gudi Padva in the state of Maharashtra). On this day, a very thoughtful thing is done - eating a mix of neem leaves and jaggery - bitter & sweet combination. It symbolizes that life is a combination of bitter and sweet events - hence be ready for the same!

Further, in most Indian business organizations, March & April months are interesting, because the financial year in India for most firms is April to March. So there are financial year closing activities in March while simultaneously budgeting and planning activities are done for the new financial year ahead. So it is also a new financial year for most Indian businesses from April 2009. Happy Ugadi and Happy New Financial Year (in slight advance) to all!

Challenges and opportunities

All people have certain peculiar characteristics that define them. As I write this blogpost, two gentlemen come to my mind - they are aged and successful - professionally, socially, and personally. If I try to size them up - it is not just their intellect, sincerity, wisdom, language, physical features, style, or any other such aspect that stands out - it is their unique ability to tackle THREATS (ie., threatening situations) AND CHALLENGES (from their environment), and CONVERT THEM TO OPPORTUNITIES that makes them interesting. I have watched them closely while they have negotiated in tough and threatening situations - ie., their vocalization, body language, ready repartee, eye contact, facial expressions, breathing patterns, presence of mind, preparations when they plan to meet people ... I have realized that there is nothing such as success or failure, it is only a matter of perception, the reality of life is the art and skill to convert challenges or threats in to opportunities to establish win-win relationships ie. mutually beneficial relationships. Each person has his style of converting challenges or threats in to beneficial situations with win-win relationships (temporary or permanent), but they have mastered it. It is great to watch these guys in action, and try & pick up some things along the way.

Regenerative science & the property of stem cells: is a mind boggling yet a simple phenomenon that we encounter often in life. The capacity of the damaged human liver to regenerate & regain original size is a part of the regenerative phenomenon. When a lizard's tail falls off, it can regrow, it is a regenerative property. Regenerative science is creating interesting possibilities, challenges, and opportunities that are firing up product portfolio activities of pharma companies. Big pharma has started investing heavily in to stem cell research & regenerative science. Stem cell science is where perhaps biotech was 10 years back. It is nascent, growing, and future commercial prospects look bright.

Stem cells refers to cells that can grow in to other special cells, tissues, and organs. They are present in both embryo and adults (in the bone marrow and umbilical cord). It is demonstrated that stem cell population increases when there is trauma or stress. Stem cells are involved in the repair and regeneration of damaged tissues. Ayurveda and Yoga says that for the health of the human body, the immune system, hormonal and nervous systems should be strong and healthy. One can concur that Ayurveda and Yoga have indirectly indicated that stem cells too are interlinked with these systems to strengthen and repair the body. Yoga - pranayama and Ayurvedic medicines are supposed to stimulate activity of natural stem cells that help heal the damaged tissues. India and Japan are collaborating on development of stem cell therapies. In stem cell therapy, specific stem cells are introduced in to damaged tissues, to help heal them.

Big Pharma companies like Pfizer are clearly focused on developing future businesses through stem cell based pharmaceutical products. While stem cell therapy based products seem complex and perplexing, products for wound repair using stem cell therapy seem to be the first place to start off, for some companies. Stem cell therapy products for faster fracture healing are also looked into. Here is a link on the market for stem cell products. Stem cell based products market is said to be upward of 872 million USD growing at 10%, and is estimated to become a 1.4 billion USD market by 2013 (mainly a US market).

In India, while the stem cell therapy center initiative has been launched by Apollo group quite some time back, another Manipal group company Stempeutics is consistently making media news for its work. They are developing a stem cell based product for vascular dysfunction that manifests as heart disease, peripheral vascular disorder etc. Bangalore based Stempeutics is indeed doing some admirable work in this field. It is stated that the estimated world-wide market for stem cell based products is 20 billion USD by 2010. This blogger is doing a great job at demystifying the field of stem cell science and putting forth knowledge of this formidable science in simple language. Great going Mr. ANGSUMAN.

Marketing stem cell products

For marketing stem cell based products particularly since this is from a new healing science, the emphasis of regulators would of course be on SAFETY AND EFFICACY. Another important point gaining traction is PHARMACOECONOMICS. When a product or therapy is marketed how does it fare in terms of cost when compared to contemporary therapies? This is a very valid point. Many a times, the focus is on doing something different, patent it, and market it to count in the dollars, with pharmacoeconomics taking the back seat, however, with the media becoming powerful, cost issues need to be justified. There is great challenging work going on in stem cell therapy development, monoclonal antibody business (where Biocon is working avidly in this field to commercialize MAB products to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and such other autoimmune diseases) and other frontier areas.

Downsizing is short term thinking

When such amazing things are happening on the new product development front globally, it is, one feels, extremely shortsighted of companies to downsize (particularly during mergers) just because it will help improve the financial picture of a few quarters. One thing is inventing a new therapy, but marketing is another game. It requires a lot of training, and good marketing activities to make the conceptual product a market success. It requires seasoned marketers and experienced sales & marketing personnel to make the product succeed, so downsizing will be deleterious to the future business of marketing concept pharma products.

Please think twice PHARMA BIG PEOPLE about downsizing ... think beyond a few quarters!!

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