Archive for July, 2011

Wireless Health – Product Development Cycle?

I had an opportunity the other day to have a great conversation with someone very involved in the wireless health industry to talk about my goal of establishing a seed acceleration program focused on wireless health products. We talked about a number of things like what I expected could be done in 90 days, is this really an incubator, how is this different from some other local initiatives? I like being tested and challenged especially from people considered experts in the field. I get feedback about how well I know what I am doing and how good I am at expressing myself on the subject. It is also a great learning experience and, quite honestly, I have a lot to learn.

Every so often, someone says something that doesn’t immediately resonate with me, but later comes back into my thoughts when I have some time to think about. During our conversation, I mentioned that the goal of the accelerator was to shorten the learning curve that all early stage entrepreneurs go through, which I feel is somewhere between 18 and 24 months. I think that much of this time is wasted by looking for the right information, contacts, processes, investors, etc. I have always believed that there are different types of capital needed by early stage entrepreneurs with two of them being Time and Money. Both are critical and precious resources and need to be monitored as much as possible.

At one point he said, and I am paraphrasing, you might be able to shorten the learning curve, but I’m not sure you will be able to shorten the 7 to 9 years it takes to get a wireless medical device developed and into the market. Although I did hear the 7 to 9 year piece, I did not immediately focus on it. Later, it hit me, why 7 to 9 years? I can understand it might take that long to get a new drug approved where the FDA needs to make sure that the drug reacts the way the manufacturer says it will and that it doesn’t cause any harm. I am also aware that some products that have stored medicine in the device, like insulin, don’t lose potency while sitting on a shelf; so you must have it some for some number of years. But a non-invasive, medical device that combines cellular/wireless capabilities with it, 7 to 9 years and 10s of millions of dollars? It makes no sense.

During my corporate career, I was always involved with products, and worked through maybe 6 different product management processes. The differences were generally how you compartmentalized the various steps and how you organized your R&D, Product Development, or Life Cycle Management tasks. One of our goals was to continually monitor and evaluate our processes and look for ways to make them more efficient. Our longest cycles were 36 months for large PBX and Central Office systems.

I have heard quite a lot about the FDA 510(k) process as being a big part of the problem, but have also heard the FDA say that entrepreneurs share the blame by not following procedures, or not taking advantage of pre-meetings or making changes they have requested. If the 510(k) process was put in place to facilitate getting devices into the market quicker and it is still taking anywhere north of 36 months on an exception basis, then the process is very broken.

So, I would really like to understand what the process is to get a product from concept to patient or consumer along with the timing. Can anyone share or point me to a description of the processes being used?

I look at the types of products under development in this industry and feel they are just too important to languish in development for extended time frames while there are patients or consumers who will benefit greatly by having access to them. There are some very innovative devices and applications under development. If great innovation collides head on with process, rules and policies that make it incredibly expensive and too time consuming to get into the market, entrepreneurs will turn their attention somewhere else. Whether it is to another country or industry, it is just wrong!

So, I would really appreciate it if someone can point me in the right direction. Maybe we can test some new ideas within the accelerator.

Happy Independence Day.



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July 2011
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