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Forging A Successful Innovation Partnership

  • September 30, 2013

  • Sven Stegemann, Ph.D.,

    President, Geriatric Medicines Society, speaker at this years PODD event shares his thoughts on “Forging A Successful Innovation Partnership”

    The word “innovation” is used over and over again by those in the drug delivery and pharmaceutical industries. However, there are differences in opinion between the two groups as to what makes something “novel” or “innovative” as innovation does not always lead to positive outcome. Take lithium-ion batteries that go up in flames, for example, or new drugs that exhibit serious side effects in the real patient population. We have learned to greet innovations with a healthy dose of skepticism. Innovation, then, all comes back to perception.


    Let’s take an interesting case on innovation – tablet computers. Invented by Microsoft in the early 1990s and reinvented several times thereafter, tablets remained a niche product until Apple marketed them as iPads nearly 20 years later. At that time, they were perceived as a huge, innovative step in computing.


    According to Attridge from the Imperial College in London, the adoption of innovation follows a sequence: (1) perceived relative advantage or value compared to existing products; (2) compatibility with existing values and experiences; (3) complexity referring to difficulty of use and understanding; (4) trialability to experience (at least on a limited basis); and (5) observability of the innovations to the target user. Often when pharmaceutical companies partner with drug delivery companies to develop new products, the drug delivery company tends not to consider that the perception of innovation is a process by itself. This differing perspective on what is “innovation” can cause challenges, especially as drug delivery is just one aspect of a complex drug development program that pharmaceutical companies have to manage. Thus, the “innovation” must be integrated into a holistic framework of drug product development.


    Innovative technology must be judged on its incremental advantages or values and not on potential pitfalls, such as why it may not work or may not be as good as the alternatives. Moreover, when a pharmaceutical company asks, “Do you have a reference product to which the technology has been successfully applied and is generating predicted revenues?” the drug delivery company may view this as contradictive to the goal of being an innovative company. Yet, this is the question big pharmaceutical companies often raise.


    A successful innovation, perceived and real, requires a common ground of mutual understanding on both sides that balances the true needs of the pharmaceutical company with the real potential and unique aspects of a drug delivery technology. Innovation does not mean blindly following any new idea or technology. Instead, innovation is a complex and interactive process that considers everything from a compound’s attributes, such as its solubility, potency and stability, through to its final delivery, determining where and how a drug is best delivered to and absorbed by the body.  As experts and scientists, whether in the pharmaceutical industry or a small drug delivery company, it is our job to make a fair and unbiased assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the innovative steps. Innovation always carries a level of uncertainty, but we must give a new idea a fair chance to mature in a positive environment. Innovation is often only realized during a dynamic learning process that removes roadblocks, uncovers the potential of a technology or product and applies real-world experience to bring it to market. In other words, a successful collaboration will evolve if the two partners are able to create a perceptibility of innovation at all stakeholder levels.


    We will explore the concept of innovation and the steps to creating more constructive collaborations during an expert panel that I will be moderating on Day Two of the Partnership Opportunities in Drug Delivery conference. Join us at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11.