Friday, June 12, 2009

The valley of death


The valley of death is an interesting concept. It represents the translational gap between innovation and commercialization. A no. of basic medical discoveries fall in to the death valley because nobody is ready to understand and commercialize the product potential in those concepts. The researchers are busy discovering things, the practitioners are busy with patients; the marketers are busy working out profit making and market penetrating strategies. So who will bell the new product concept cat? Enter the translational research team experts, who will try to make a sense of all the lab research, and try and link up the product concepts through the marketers to the prospects; and get it from bench to bed as fast as possible.

Research and new pharmaceutical product development has become very complex. Firstly, new pharmaceutical product development is a big team work, and commercializing is a bigger gamble.

Just recollect how many of the medical breakthroughs of the past were developed - it was through the medical researcher cum healer. Recall the story of small pox vaccine: Edward Jenner (1749 to 1823) is considered as the father of vaccination. He noticed that (pretty?!) milkmaids had a clear complexion (no pock marks of small pox). He surmised that cowpox - a related much milder disease that was contracted from cows conferred them with immunity from small pox. He made a crude vaccine of cowpox virus with the help of a milkmaid Sarah Nelmes by name. Using a thorn as a syringe he infected it in to a 8 year old boy James Phipps on 14.5.1796 (18th Cent.). A few weeks later he daringly injected the boy with small pox. To everyone's relief the boy remained healthy. 200 years down the line - small pox is eradicated worldwide thanks to Edward Jenner. Such was the research trend those days. Today, it is more complex, teamwork and tight regulations are driving research efforts. Hence, the valley of death has also come in to the picture. Traversing this valley requires the translational research experts.

There are hundreds of innovations, yet all do not come to the market, neither do all become commercial successes. Between the cup and the lip ie., the innovators and the ones involved in commercialization there are a lot of issues. For eg., even if a researcher comes up with a grand product concept for malaria, the one's involved in commercializing innovations may not invest on this concept, for the markets' are more attractive for chronic lifestyle therapeutic products and all funds are tied up there.

Molecular medicinal research and biomedical research has made the game of new product development more complex. Basic biomedical discoveries are numerous. There are a lot of therapeutic protein targets being identified. However, where do you put all the efforts and resources for developing a product from the molecular discoveries?? That is where the translational research team comes in to the game. This team comprises of multidisciplinary specialists like pharmacologists, clinicians, and other guys with a marketing sense.

Hybrid marketing and the valley of death

The hybrid marketing concept has a role to play to help good product concepts avoid falling in to the valley of death. In hybrid marketing, practicing opinion builder doctors in the market are involved in the drug development cycle. In hybrid marketing a lot of prelaunch marketing work is done. Thus, by the time the actual launch of the product takes place, there are a set of doctors with confidence on this product and they will help commercialize the product successfully. Pre launch marketing activities can last up to 5 years before the actual launch of the product.

The valley of death is not only about R & D

There are lots of valleys of death in organizations. For eg., there is a valley of death between marketing guys and the sales chaps. The marketing guys are convinced on their marketing concepts, where as the sales guys think they are ivory tower concepts. Sales guys have their own relationship management tools that they feel provide the actual fodder for sales. The finance guys try to figure out where all the money is going down the marketing pipeline. And sometimes their left brain thinking does not appreciate the right brain activities - leading to a valley of death. There is a valley of death between the R & D guys and finance chaps. The latter are always wondering why the R & D dept. is burning so much money while the output is not exciting. The production and quality control guys have a translational gap, which the QA (quality assurance) guys try to fill in. THE FUN TODAY IS TRYING TO WORK ROUND ALL THESE translational gaps or VALLEYS OF DEATH, reconcile the varying points of view, market the concept internally in the organization, and finally help create revenue flows to the organization.

Modern business complexities

The modern business complexities are numerous, there are many translational gaps or valleys of death for new product concepts, product promotional concepts, and other processes. The future belongs to those organizations who can avoid the valleys of death in an organization through improved focus, mutual understanding, trust, and communication. To help avoid translational gaps, HRD people try to put in training programs for better communication, efficiency, and effectiveness. So do the other trainers in marketing depts. too.

Limerick of the day


Mr. Mind did a lot of research
Created did he, a product for the top perch
Mr. Seller had no idea to appreciate
So the product market did depreciate
Alas, the product was in a lurch.
- Sunil S Chiplunkar

Thought for the day


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