What is Success?
June 1, 2020
Defining the end goal in biomedical research
The notion of “Success” is relative and highly contextual. This is true of biomedical research and development. Depending on where you are in terms of the therapeutics development pipeline, both organisationally and functionally, you are likely to get a different definition of success.
For the academic researcher undertaking important wet lab research, who makes that initial breakthrough discovery, success is typically linked to the publication of a manuscript. Success is the novel, landmark or first-in-man finding; it is the paper that is accepted into a high-impact journal (Cell, Nature or Science- the holy trinity of biomedicine publishing). Publication in these high-impact journals is an accepted surrogate for the importance of the initial discovery, and the potential for changing research paradigms and benefiting patients. This achievement is appropriately seen as success: it is an important first-step along the way to something valuable for patients. As a consequence, it also increases the chances of future funding, promotion, and international recognition.
For the entrepreneur, success is seeing a market opportunity and bringing capital and technology (often the technology is based on the breakthrough discovery in the academic research laboratory) together to address it. Through this process the entrepreneur creates value and value creation is the yardstick by which their success is measured. For the investor, success is the identification of opportunities (which are often generated by the entrepreneur) to deploy capital and achieve the greatest financial return. This may be achieved by securing an exit with an industry partner. These contributions can be considered a second-step along the pathway to ultimate patient benefit.
But for the biopharmaceutical industry, success is a viable commercial product on the market. As such, it can be seen the final step on the pathway to bringing benefit to patients. It is seeing drug development through to the very end, with new treatments in the hands of doctors and patients and seeing the many years of research finally make a positive impact on human health and quality of life. Within the company each function that contributes to the overall company goal has different definitions of success – for manufacturing it may be reducing the cost of producing the new drug (“cost of goods”), for clinical operations it may be efficient enrollment of patients in the clinical studies, for medical affairs it is ensuring patient safety, for regulatory it is expeditious approval by the Regulatory Authorities, and for the health economics and outcomes research team it is achieving reimbursement for the new therapeutic approach.
For the patient and society in general, success is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars that funds relevant research that can be efficiently transferred to the entrepreneur who brings it together with investor capital to create further value through an exit to an industry partner. Ultimately, this results in affordable access to cost-effective treatment that improve outcomes for all who need it.
Misalignment across players can cause delays, disputes over the allocation of resources, counterproductive competitive behavior, and can compromise the commercial viability of projects entirely. Our definition of success needs to be realigned to one that is mindful of the end goal – to see a novel treatment on the market and available to patients.
In this context, success for the academic, the entrepreneur, the investor and industry are but milestones in the continuum, each worthy of celebration – crucial interdependent steps towards societal success rather than ends in themselves.
For promising new projects, creating opportunities for effective partnering of all of these players is a fundamental premise for the development of novel therapeutics. In these partnerships, misalignment in the different parties’ understanding of success or a “zero sum game” mentality can be problematic. Our societal mission of bringing safe and effective therapeutics to patients does not stop with the success of one player in the development chain. Misalignment across players can cause delays, disputes over the allocation of resources, counterproductive competitive behavior, and can compromise the commercial viability of projects entirely.
Our definition of success needs to be realigned to one that is mindful of the end goal – to see a novel treatment on the market and available to patients.
This is why BioCurate exists. BioCurate is doing its part to bridge the gap between academia and industry by pursuing opportunities to align success metrics. BioCurate exists to further develop, for patient benefit, the outstanding fundamental research for which Australia is famous. It is acknowledged that there are systemic pressures that influence the way research is conducted in Australia. Changes to precarious funding models and the insidious pressure to publish are necessary. A more long-term, commercial mindset is critical to help our country realise the significant potential of its research community and achieve success in commercialising promising new discoveries.
BioCurate is striving to improve our collective understanding of the realities of translation, and to bring industry to researchers- to facilitate new collaborations. Creating a strong, multidisciplinary team of experts and supporting the entire drug development value chain will fortify the foundations for success and improve the likelihood of bringing novel treatments to market that improve the lives of patients.