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Reflections from Kate Bechtel, PhD, Triple Ring Technologies Director of Optical Technologies
June 1, 2016

kate1_03I was impressed by comments made recently by Scott Coleridge, CEO of ViOptix, at the recent OSA BIOMED 2016 Biophotonics Town Hall session and wanted to share some of his key insights.

Scott believes (and I agree) that the opportunities have never been bigger or brighter for biophotonics technology.The rising costs of healthcare and inevitability of universal healthcare are driving medicine from treatment to prevention, to earlier detection, to outcome-based payments (which means more data and metrics) and to treatment by less skilled people for more common ailments (simpler devices) and at remote locations (telemedicine).

As many of us are aware, biophotonics can be used to address many of these challenges. But how do we get past the infamous Valley of Death where many technologies go to die before being seen by the outside world? Scott’s insight here is that there is no Valley of Death for technologies that begin with the end in mind.

As technical people, we should spend as much time identifying problems that need to be solved as we do on the technology itself. When Scott asked the audience of highly skilled biophotonics experts:

“How many of you subscribe or regularly read any of the OSA Journals?”

A vast majority raised their hand, but when he asked:

“How many of you regularly read general surgery journals or any other medical publication?”

Only a handful responded.

This demonstration really drove home the need for more application-driven research and development. Here at Triple Ring a phrase I like to use is “technology agnostic” in regards to the mindset necessary for developing products to meet a given clinical need.

Scott went on to describe how it’s not satisfactory to detect a lump in the breast:

“We want to see cells that may develop into a lump and eliminate them before they cause a serious health problem. We do not want to remove a breast, we want to kill the cells or just remove a duct.”

We cannot solve problems unless we understand the etiology of disease or unless we understand the surgical technique involved. So, if you want to find opportunities, Scott suggests you figure out why disease or abnormalities occur and determine if there is an opportunity for early intervention and/or identification.

To unlock these opportunities we will need to be smart about how we approach the solution and Scott concluded with these tips:

1.  Do not skimp on good regulatory consultants
In many cases we are creating new solutions, so the regulatory path will be complex and you will need good advice, but do your homework, be involved, and ask very specific questions.

2.  Do the minimum clinical trial for an indication that gets you approval and into the market
Clinical trials may be expensive and time consuming. You don’t have to slay the largest dragon the first time!

3.  Keep things lean
Get a product to commercialization to demonstrate market acceptance. Every activity and every dollar spent should be thought of as an opportunity to create value.

4.  Begin with the end in mind
Think first about a problem and figure out a way to solve it that is faster, cheaper, earlier, and better.

5.  Follow the money
Where is money being spent on problems?

6.  Look for large markets dominated by 2-3 large players
Those who are looking for ways to gain a competitive edge will be potential investors or acquirers of your technology.

7.  Keep it simple
Products will need to be operated by workers with less training and technical sophistication resulting in preferences for simplicity and accuracy.

8.  Understand the Health Economic Impact of your solution
Determine early how much your solution will save the system.

9.  Pair up with a fellow at a research hospital
Fellowships require a research project and so they are eager to work with you. The fellow provides a great way to get inside information about the medical application of interest and feedback on your approach and device.

About the Presenter:
ScottScott E. Coleridge has served as the CEO of ViOptix, Inc for the past 5 years. A highly experienced medical technology executive, Mr. Coleridge’s recent experience includes serving as Co-Founder of Apple Medical (sold to Cooper Surgical), Executive Vice President, FEI Women’s Health (sold to Barr Laboratoriess, now Teva Pharmaceuticals) and developing the only non-hormonal female contraceptive. Mr. Coleridge has spent more than 20 years starting or being part of the senior management team for several early-stage life science companies, including Kingston Diagnostics, developer of the first whole blood cholesterol test (Licensed to Warner Lambert/Pfizer) and CEO of Synthon Chiragenics (sold to Avecia). After the sale of FEI to Barr Laboratories in 2005, Mr. Coleridge joined Morningside Technology Advisory, LLC. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Excera Orthopedics and Humanzyme, Inc.

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