By Jonathan Rosen
In my experience, entrepreneurs are used to being ahead of the curve; that’s what they count on. But sometimes it takes a while for the curve to catch up.
Earlier this week, the Boston University School of Management, in cooperation with MassDevice, announced that on May 17 we will be hosting the World Health Medical Technologies Conference.
We’re very excited about the possibilities of this one-day conference, because I believe the time has finally come when new and established medical technology companies can economically and profitably bring their products and services to the patients who need them the most. It is my sincere hope that this conference can bring the medical technology community together to figure out how we can use our ingenuity, innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship to solve global problems.
We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to this conference. Many people have told me that they find this concept both exciting and long overdue. I guess that’s because it is long overdue.
In 2004, while I was at the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) at Mass. General Hospital in Boston, we were working to create a global health track. At the time, this collection of teaching hospitals, engineering centers and research laboratories in Boston had been focused almost entirely on developing medical technologies for advanced care hospitals and the military. In doing so, we were already working with several venture capital funds to start new ventures around these technologies; at the same time, we were facilitating a few research groups targeting low-cost diagnostic and therapeutic solutions for patient care in poor countries. But when we tried to bring the VCs together with these early-stage global health device developers, we quickly realized that there was no available business model that could satisfy traditional investment criteria.
That same year, C.K. Prahalad published his landmark book, “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits.” Prahalad’s radical concept centered around the idea that creative, profitable enterprises, rather than charities or lowered expectations on return, could best drive economic development and improve patient care in poor communities.
The next year, we invited Prof. Prahalad to speak at a workshop on New Models for Investment in Global Health. His message to us then was simple: Don’t expect investors to accept a lower return because they are helping poor people; rather, change the way you deliver medical care to poor patients so that everyone who needs the care gets it and investors can realize their expected returns. In three days of intense discussion, leaders from the academic, industrial and investment communities were unable to devise a single business model that could achieve this reasonable goal.
More recently, several major foundations, including the Clinton Foundation, have been working on developing new models for streamlining the entire supply chain for global health drugs and devices, with particular attention to improving the efficiency of the available distribution channels. With these improved channels, and with a better overall understanding of the clinical, cultural and economic criteria for accessing these lower-resource markets, the world health medical technology industry may now be in position to fulfill Dr. Prahalad’s original mandate.
That pursuit is the inspiration behind the World Health Medical Technology Conference. On May 17, at the Boston University School of Management, we will again bring together leaders in global health delivery, innovative medical technologies and pioneering investment models to share their expertise and experience in an interactive workshop setting.
We hope you can join us for this important conversation and for more discussion here on MassDevice about how we can engage the medical technology community to embrace new opportunities.
For more information on the conference please visit our website.
Dr. Jonathan Rosen is the executive director of the Boston University School of Management Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (ITEC).