Thursday, April 24, 2014

Science will Drive Innovation

El Mundo, one of the most prestigious newspapers in Spain, has a business supplement on innovation and entrepreneurship.  They invited me to write an article on innovation and it was published yesterday.  The original article in English is what follows below.

Innovation in health is being driven by two major changes—the science behind the understanding of health and disease and the expectation that consumers need to be better informed about their own health.

Science has moved us from looking at single causal factors to recognizing that there are many factors that impact on our health and that these factors are connected in ways that we previously were unable to measure. This means that innovation in health will be less about the separate parts of the body (heart, lung, brain) and more about the systems that are key to wellness. Our historic view of microbes as something that must be destroyed has been upended and provides a great example of why a change in focus from single causes and functions to co-dependencies is so important in understanding the mechanics of our health ecosystem.

We know that microbes are found in and outside of every person and for the most part help to keep your body working well. Some aid in digestion while others on the skin actually protect you from having harmful microbes pass through your skin. We need to be able to understand what they do and how to help them do what they need to do. Taking a systems approach to microbes requires us to collect and analyze data on our microbiome by looking at it as one interrelated system. And the solutions and business opportunities are in the products and technologies that work with this system.

At the same time, the vision of health that was defined by longevity is being recalibrated to focus on wellness, activity, and productivity and the quality of those longer years of life. With this new definition comes the demand for more information to be made available to consumers in a meaningful way. The Internet has trained consumers worldwide that information should be available within a few clicks. And this is especially true for the information about our own health and the health of others.

The blossoming area of biometrics and ways that this information can be gathered creates opportunities to market an array of new products. Professional athletes are the earliest beneficiaries of some of the new products that marry biometrics with giving immediate feedback.

For the average weekend fitness warrior there is now wearable technology embedded in clothes, e.g., smart fabrics, that monitor heart rate and pulse and transmit this information through wireless technology. A person can have the information sent to a cell phone or a computer where their every movement and its effect on their body can be studied and monitored. And the opportunities for innovation exist in the devices that are being developed, their use, the analysis of the data, and even in the development of protocols of what happens when there is a breach in a person’s privacy.

Innovation means addressing desires and wants even before a person recognizes there is a need. It is science that will be the key gateway to our future and the successful entrepreneur who will monetize it by new products or services.