//Challenges and Opportunities in Translating Innovation with Nadine C. Martin

Challenges and Opportunities in Translating Innovation with Nadine C. Martin

Challenges and Opportunities in Translating Innovation with Nadine C. Martin


  • sitem-insel AG is a public private partnership designed to support and to accelerate translational medicine
  • It also helps scientists and professionals in life sciences by educating them in bio-entrepreneurship, establishing collaboration amongst partners (e.g academia, industry) and supports them when dealing with regulatory affairs challenges
  • Lots of scientists struggle with the basics on how to get started with business and need help
  • Patents are necessary today to get innovations to the patients and is standard practice, but alternative approaches should be explored
  • Open Innovation and involving patients more into the research and development process could greatly improve targeted product development

Who is Nadine C Martin?

Dr. Nadine C Martin is in charge of innovation management at sitem-insel AG

She’s a physician and has a 20+ years experience in the pharmaceutical industry where she worked in various local and global positions in large and mid-sized international companies.

She’s also vice-president of the board of the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and is a expert judge and mentor at MassChallenge.

What is sitem-insel AG?

The acronym sitem stands for the Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine.

Founded in 2014, it is a public private partnership.

Dedicated to addressing the following challenges in translation

  1. Education – with focus on the process it takes to translate medicine from labs into the wild
  2. Collaboration – foster collaboration by bringing together clinicians, startups, associations and industrial organizations to speed up innovation
  3. Regulatory Affairs – help new innovations go to market through administrative and regulatory support

What are the main challenges that are preventing medicines from reaching patients?

Missing knowhow and missing connections from researchers and startups.

I was recently contacted by a physician who developed a new medical device who was interested in getting this device into the market. However he had no idea whom he should talk to for the next steps.

So we helped him get hooked up with the right association. From there, he was able to find the right partners and could continue his development. It’s a small contribution we made but it seems to have been quite consequential for his company.

We’ve also helped researchers meet the right clinicians who can carry out a proof of concept (PoC) with them. PoC data are ususally needed before you can really engage with industry partners.

Bringing innovation to market traditionally or explore new ways to get there

Let’s explore why most biomedical companies are currently relying on patents and their generally secretive behavior to bring drugs to market.

Safe and effective Drugs need → Extensive Clinical Trials need → Money to fund trials → Return on Investment for Investors → need Patents

This cause-chain is different from open innovation where different parties can collaborate and share critical information to bring innovation to markets sooner.

There exist now organizations that try to contribute to drug discovery differently like Geneva based DNDi, a collaborative non-profit R&D organization, which is targeting neglected diseases in the 3rd world, or M4K Pharma that is developing cures for a rare children’s disease under Open Science principles. They show that you can also bring drugs to market differently, click here to read/listen to the interview with their CEO.

Fundraising as a bottleneck

Sometimes it is very hard and time-consuming to find funding for biomedical innovations. In those cases, maybe crowdfunding could be an alternative and faster way to raise the money needed to bring the technology to the next step.

The Academic-Entrepreneur Dichotomy

DNAs between a great academic and a great entrepreneur might often be different. The skills, personality structure and personal drivers that make you great in one domain aren’t necessarily the same as in the other one. Many scientists are trained and conditioned to make new findings and publish them in high impact journals. But taking an invention to market is a completely different ballgame, and the scientists might lack the knowhow and contacts as well as the willingness to switch their efforts on to the translation of their findings.

While great scientists could also be good entrepreneurs (and many have proven this), many still need a mindset shift and greater awareness to engage in what happens with their own findings. No all necessarily need to become entrepreneurs themselves and translate the findings themselves. But they should take pride to choose and hand over the translation of their results to a team or organization they trust and that take their invention to market where it can benefit patients.

Researchers future ideal mindset

  • Responsibility
    • Be aware that their research may mostly be tax funded and feel responsible to maximize the return for society and the benefits to patients and therefore
    • Not only focused on high quality research and impact factor journals but also on translation of their research in general
  • Knowhow
    • Know on a general level what it takes to take an innovation to market
    • Understand the different options available to them such as creating a spinoff and becoming an entrepreneur, recruiting a founding team for the spin-off or licensing the tech to a corporate or others

What can we do to improve innovation and patient outcomes?

Two areas that are close to Nadine’s heart

Patient-centered innovation

Bringing a drug to market is huge work. One has to be very careful in e.g. designing clinical trials in order to get it right. Being heavily involved in those processes in the past, I dawned on me we never involved the patients in our initial discussions.

Especially in the area of chronic diseases with treatments that focus on improving the quality of life (so called palliative care or symptomatic treatment), patients and their caregivers may be able to reveal what would most make a difference in their life.

For example, reducing the daily pill count may not make a big difference from a patient’s perspective. But having a better monitoring for aggravation of symptoms to prevent worst-case scenarios could be much more valuable to patients. This can be uncovered by talking to patients and caregivers directly.

Open Innovation

Traditionally, innovation comes out of the R&D department or the founder’s head. The idea behind open innovation is to involve more (internal and/or external) people in the innovation process and all contribute to different and better products and services e.g. involvement of clients and partners in co-development. Having them on board early can also help uncover blind spots and new solutions, incl. development speed up or cost reduction. This can dramatically increase the likelihood of success.

Different kinds of open innovation

  • Internal open innovation, whereby people from other departments, such as administration, sales or manufacturing contribute
  • External open innovation with key stakeholders, such as patient groups, clients, industry partners and suppliers
  • Public open innovation where anyone in the public can submit ideas, collaborate on and refine existing ideas

Advantages of open innovation

  • More horsepower through an increase in the number of people working together
  • New points of view through increased diversity of collaborators

How are people using open innovation?

Open innovation can be used for

  • Creative idea generation or ideas for problem solving
  • Idea prioritization through crowd voting
  • The process can be subject to competition and reward scheme

About Bio2040

There are so many challenges in drug discovery. We are a group of entrepreneurs and scientists who want to improve things. Our first measure is to educate ourselves and the community on what the biggest bottlenecks and their underlying reasons are. This leads us to discover exciting new opportunities. Bio2040 wants to be the leading place for or entrepreneurs & academics to meet, exchange ideas and launch new ventures.

How to stay connected or get involved

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes

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And you should follow Flavio on Twitter here.

By |2019-01-30T16:22:17+01:00January 30th, 2019|Collaboration|0 Comments

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