Mind to Market

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Investing in Theranostics

Making a strong case for the commercial development of personalized medicines, Lisa Haile, JD, PhD calls for greater investment on the part of venture capitalists and pharmaceuticals in a recent article in Genetic Engineering News. Theranostics is the term coined for combining diagnostics and therapeutics; an essential part of delivering on the personalized medicine promise.

Not only will theranostics reduce the risks of developing drugs, Dr. Haile states, but lower the costs of development as well. Yet as compelling as that sounds, she writes that the number of commercialized theranostics products today is unacceptably low and lays the blame at the feet of the VCs and pharmas.

Personalized medicine is no doubt a paradigm shift from the "old" blockbuster pharma model, a model that pharma is loathe to abandon. More than a paradigm shift, this may in fact be a technology disruptive to the industry. As in the case of many disruptive technologies, they do not fit nicely into the industry's business models and as a result are usually passed over for technologies that provide the promise of blockbuster status.

I don't think all VCs are oblivious to the promise of theranostics however. Steven Burrill introduced me to the term two years ago in a talk where he was singing its praises. Atlas Venture, Boulder Ventures, Skyline Ventures and InterWest Partners have backed a start up pharmacogenomic play called Arca Discovery to develop cardiac theranostics. As is often the case with a disruptive technology, it requires an entrepreneurial effort to make the initial forays into commercialization.

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