Tag: innovation

Company News: Achmea and LSP Launch LSP-Health Economics Fund for Innovation in Healthcare

Dutch healthcare insurer Achmea and investment company Life Sciences Partners (LSP) have set up an investment fund for innovation in healthcare, the LSP-Health Economics Fund (LSP-HEF). On 5 September 2011, the healthcare insurer already announced its intention to make € 50 million available for this purpose. As of today, the fund is ‘open for business’ and will seek to invest in international technology companies that may contribute to increased healthcare quality and better cost control.

The fund will be managed by Life Sciences Partners (LSP) a pan-European investment firm specialized in healthcare and biotechnology investments. LSP has recruited a dedicated investment team consisting of investment and technology specialists as well as experts for health economics and healthcare processes. The team will target European and US-based companies that have products close to or on the market. The main focus are companies offering promising technologies or products targeting indications such as cardiovascular diseases, lung disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia – diseases that more and more people are afflicted with and for which society pays a high price.

New technologies and products for these indications can lead to better control of health care costs while improve the quality of patient care, for example by using better diagnostics, applying minimally invasive treatments or preventing complications. In spite of this, it is the experience of Achmea and LSP that many of these companies struggle to penetrate the market quickly due to an insufficiently developed health economics case; this is often due to the fact that the technology has not been developed together with healthcare providers, not all stakeholders have been considered, and that a sales process that requires addressing each individual physician can slow down market take-up.

Through the unique cooperation between an insurance company and an investment firm, Achmea and LSP can efficiently support such companies in bringing their technologies to the market. Achmea will provide access to its know-how, expertise and database to help build the healthcare economics cases. Moreover, Achmea will help companies to find their way in the healthcare market, and will bring new technologies to the attention of healthcare providers.

Food for Thought: Germany Lags Behind in Biotech

These days, everybody has his own opinion about the quality and prospects of the German biotechnology industry. It even seems to be difficult to determine if biotech funding in Germany has increased, remained stable – or dramatically decreased, as recently published by the German industry organization BIO Deutschland.

If you look at key intangibles, such as the extent of media coverage on the biotech sector and the attractiveness of German biotech companies for investment banks, it is obvious that German biotech is not on the rise.

An article by Roland Benedikter and James Giordano published by German newspaper Die Welt suggests a bleak scenario if Germany is not willing to accelerate and intensify its biotech efforts. According to the authors, biotechnology is not only the most important success factor in future economic development – it will also change the global power balance: “the one who controls the chips also controls the game”. Asia and the Far East are quickly catching up in the biotech space, while the U.S. and other European countries continue to heavily invest into the sector. Therefore, Germany might gradually evolve from an export-oriented country to an import-oriented one – unless there will be a fundamental change of mind in the German government and society.

Almost two decades ago, the German biotech industry started out with the clear goal to narrow the gap to the U.S., where biotechnological markets and ventures were (and still are) much more mature. Since then, the German biotech sector has successfully produced a number of promising companies, innovations and products. However, the most attractive and advanced companies and technologies have been acquired by foreign, mostly U.S.-based, companies. Amgen´s take-over of Micromet, an oncology company with academic roots at the University of Munich, is the most recent example.

Therefore, lack of innovation is clearly not the problem. And lack of funding is only the symptom of an underlying German (and partly European) biotech phenomenon – wide-spread risk aversion combined with limited availability of true executive leadership qualities. Moreover, the public sentiment towards biotechnological innovation remains skeptical or even hostile and is mirrored by a “we don’t need this”-attitude of politicians and even Germany’s healthcare system, in which IQWiG, a decision body responsible for drug reimbursement, does its best to belittle innovative medicines.

It may not surprise you that an often-heard German term, “technologiefeindlich” (i.e. a negative attitude towards technological innovation), lacks any English equivalents.

Innovation Radar: Brilliant Mistakes – Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure

Everybody knows of instances in their own life where initial “mistakes” or wrong decisions turned out to be exactly the right thing. Trivial examples include going to a party that you never really wanted to attend and ending up meeting the person of your life – or running ten minutes late and thereby avoiding a fatal car crash that had just occured down the road.

But what about the most carefully managed area in life – your own career and business? Thinking that wrong business decisions must mean the end of your career? The opposite may be the case, says Paul J.H. Schoemaker, research director of Wharton’s Mack Center for Technological Innovation and chairman and founder of consulting firm Decision Strategies International.

In his book Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Schoemaker argues that mistakes often open the door to totally new perspectives and findings – and help you reinvent your business or personal career for good. Mistakes have been the basis for many innovations that revolutionized the way we live today – including the discovery of penicillin and the development of ATM machines.

Knowledge@Wharton features an interview with Paul J.H. Schoemaker, who talks about the concept of brilliant mistakes – i.e. ignoring conventional wisdom at the time – and the innovative potential of this approach. Being risk averse, he says, is not going to take businesses very far and will kill their productivity and their ability to adapt to new markets and opportunities. Instead, both executives and researchers should be able to learn from surprises and turn failures into successes by looking at them from a totally different angle.

Certainly an interesting concept for anyone working in an industry that is characterized by decreasing productivity, lack of true innovation and stagnation – e.g. the pharmaceutical sector. After all, cost-cutting and consolidation have not emerged as effective means to spur innovation.

Interview with Paul J.H. Schoemaker on Brilliant Mistakes

Food for Thought: Germany’s Emerging Pirate Party Pillories the Life Sciences Industry

The recent election in Germany’s federal state of Berlin ended with a surprise: a previously almost unknown party, the Pirate Party (Piratenpartei) won 15 of the 152 state parliament seats; nearly every one in ten voters in Berlin casted his ballot for this group, which was founded in 2006 by mostly male young academics and internet-affiliate people.

The program of the party is not very detailed and focuses almost entirely on freedom of information, free access to the internet, free rides on public transport, legalization of drugs and a free basic income for everyone living permanently in Germany.

While the program does not say anything about economic policy (nor on defense or international policy), it includes several statements on the life sciences and pharma industry.

For one, the party opposes patents on genes and living beings (as it opposes software patents and patents on business ideas), and in the long run aims to abolish the entire patent system. The program also states that “patenting of findings from genetic research and biotechnology … poses a great danger to tomorrow’s society.” Such patents should be forbidden by law. Moreover, the program adds that patents on pharmaceuticals, too, should be abandoned as they have “ethically highly objectionable” consequences.

Second, the “Pirates” want to “reorganize” the pharmaceutical sector as it is “characterized by monopoly blocking innovation”. They criticize that the pharma industry is making profit from publicly funded basic research and that public institutions should conduct R&D of novel therapeutics. As a result, society would spend less money on buying drugs but more on developing better ones.

Certainly, it remains to be seen whether the party will have any political influence and whether the success will be sustainable. However, the fact that the few paragraphs on industry and economics in the program almost exclusively deal with the life sciences sector once again demonstrates that the pharma and biotech sector in Germany still has massive reputation problems: one of the most innovative industries is viewed as a stumbling block for a better life.

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