Week 6 – Patients Versus Profits
Another week in the books! Hope everyone had an awesome week. As you know from reading the blog, I really love my job (even though it can be challenging and frustrating at times). There are so many things that can go on in a “normal” week. That’s what makes the job so much fun. It seems like one minute you are working on or discussing something new, trying to solve a problem, or seeing what changes can be made to an ongoing program. My weekly trek can range from working at the bench in the lab to conducting business operations behind my desk to speaking with our clinical experts. This is the reason I usually wait until the end of the week to write the blog (and no it’s not because I am a procrastinator). It would make my life a lot easier (and give me a little more sleep on Thursday night) if I wrote this at the beginning of the week. That being said, it would eliminate some good topics towards the end of the week.
In my previous work in vascular surgery research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (formerly Deaconess Hospital), I was fortunate to directly work with surgeons who were
early in their training. These relationships have provided me personal access to some of the best doctors and have led to introductions to other doctors in different specialties as needed for different programs such as gastrointestinal, cardiac and interventional nephrology. This type of network is not common for a small company. I tell you this not to brag but to let you know that these relationships are important to us because they provide us insight into what issues they are seeing and what solutions they would like to have in their hands to help their patients in their respective specialties. In all of these discussions, they are solely focused on providing the best care for their patients, which is so admirable and inspiring.
As a scientist who has worked in this area for over 30 years, I align with their passion of helping patients. It is the primary reason I have stayed in this field for so long. It comes to mind because this week we were meeting to discuss preclinical results from our NuSpun™ Vascular Graft. The team, comprised of a transplant surgeon and two interventional nephrologists, immediately began to dive into reviewing the CT scans from the study to see how our graft looked within the body, analyze some of the results and suggest changes based on the data. Even though I know these folks pretty well, I am still in awe of their knowledge. It is easy to forget that they are on the front-line helping patients and have gathered many years of experience dealing with patients with end stage kidney disease that need hemodialysis. They are meeting with me to discuss our NuSpun™ Vascular Graft, not because they have all of this free time and are looking to kill some of it, but because there is a need to provide better grafts. During this meeting, we talked about the possibilities for this device and some of the other devices we are working on. Their passion is palpable and gets me pumped to bring our technology forward. Then the business side of me has to crash the “passion party”.
There is a disconnect between this passion and the reality of how medical devices are brought forward. I immediately start to think about the struggles we have been facing/hearing from trying to raise capital to bring this technology from potential strategic partners (mature market, not big enough market) through venture capital (too early in the development process). As I’ve been harping on, unless the market value heads toward the billions, these groups are not diving into these areas in terms of investment. This is sadly been the story with medical devices over the past 5 years. Have a drug candidate (which may do nothing or not make it through the clinical trials), money is flowing like Niagara Falls. For my Saturday Night Live fans, I then have to be Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer for my clinical friends. I relay to them the realities of getting these devices forward and the funding required to get them there. They continue to explain how these devices would help their patients (one track mind which is admirable and how I used to be until we opened a business). Sadly, these decisions which should be driven by them are driven by business folks who are looking at the bottom line and the size of the deal. I always question how much is enough. Believe me, our goal as a company is to make money for our investors and us.
Even with this reality, I have not given up because the passion that brought me here (helping patients) drives the eternal optimist. Not sure how we overcome the situation that is in front of us but we have to. The stakes are too high and to give up would be giving up on the people that need this technology the most at a time where they are the most vulnerable. My wife Tina gave me a bumper sticker that I keep at my desk which says “Powered by Optimism.” We’ll continue to live the mantra.
Have a great weekend!