ARVO Day #1 – Saturday
From identifying unmet needs and product concept to intellectual property and commercialization, today’s ARVO education course provided invaluable information to entrepreneurs hoping to have their idea become extremely $$$valuable$$$.
The morning presentations provided the basic framework of idea formulation, with Dr. Steven From of Eyegate Pharmaceuticals discussing the identification of unmet needs in the ophthalmology marketplace. He described the potential for entrepreneurship in large markets such as dry eye disease or glaucoma, as well as small markets under the “orphan status” such as retinitis pigmentosa or graft vs. host disease that, suggesting that the big pipeline of “big pharma” provides some barriers to entry that may be more manageable and accessible by smaller entrepreneurs.
Identifying a “Target Product Profile” was Dr. Barbara Wirostko’s focus, CMO of Altheos Inc. and glaucoma specialist at the Moran Eye Center. Creating a profile of the target product allows a clear vision of the “unmet need, defined end-user, and reimbursement strategy.” Citing the book “Nail it then Scale it,” she stated, “Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily invent-they innovate.”
Patrick Healy, CEO of Trial Runners, did exactly that—taking the handoff from Dr. Wirostko and running with it, teaching participants to create a “Clinical Development Plan” (CDP) to provide synchronized and efficient execution of product development. For the virgin-entrepreneur, this CDP gives a framework for the day-to-day deadlines and operational necessities of any start-up company, which can similarly be applied to private practice or research lab management.
Robin Rasor, with expertise as a prior Director of Licensing, taught participants valuable tips to navigate the intimidating lands of intellectual property, providing information on “tech transfer” and the patent process.
Speaking on grants and funding for new start-ups, Dr. Matthew McMahon from the National Eye Institute discussed two confusingly similar yet different acronyms to participants of the course, namely SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research Program) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer Program). The primary message, or so it appeared, was that grant funding IS available, but good luck with the paperwork of grant applications, as it may be easier to just panhandle on the streets of NYC than funding your brilliant start-up through Uncle Sam.
The afternoon session of the course provided application of the entrepreneurial principles discussed in the morning, with real-life entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to the 60+ participants and panel experts. This highlight of the course was engaging, interesting, and inspiring, with panelists giving constructive criticism and feedback to entrepreneurs, participants playing the role of pseudo-investors, and entrepreneurs fielding often challenging questions intended to strengthen their respective “start-up” and find opportunities for improvement.
Overall, the second annual “Strategies for Entrepreneurship in Ophthalmology” ARVO Education Course was a huge success, and many thanks to the course directors, Drs. Kenneth Mandell and William Foster. Participants left encouraged to find and satisfy the “unmet needs” within ophthalmology, and developed valuable contacts and friendships with other entrepreneurs eager to not only invent, but to innovate.