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We all are, have been, or will be at some point in our lives, users/consumers of medical products, that is unless someone is a “Superman/woman”. We all have thoughts and specific opinions about what we would like or expect. Two great examples were provided by answers to my previous request to define medical innovation. Kathy said:” From a consumer perspective, I want to see new products and care that consider the quality of my life and my body – not the statistical average”. Allen Fahden commented more broadly in response to the same:Life science/medical innovation means to me that the model of reaction to failure gets updated with preventing failure.” Kathy is expressing the growing support for “personalized medicine”, Allen is touching upon the need to shift more towards preventive medicine.

My own view as a consumer is that I subscribe 100% to these two goals. I should say I did not know or discuss with either Kathy or Allen before they offered their visions on life science/medical innovation. Let’s see what might be the answer to these opinions from the other perspectives.

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I spent the better part of my life researching the human body, searching for answers as to what keeps us healthy and what makes us sick. My shortest answer after all these years might be… it is very complicated! Of course, this is what makes it so exciting for many scientists, the enthusiastic dedicated problem solvers, but can became very frustrating for the others.

Here is an analogy I used when a very good friend of mine, a sharp-witted software developer, expressed her frustration bordering on anger to me when grim news regarding the side effects of a widely used medication were announced. At the time I was in the discovery unit of another pharmaceutical company and she asked me: “What’s wrong with you people, why can’t you figure it out?”

 I thought for a moment. How could I best express the extreme complexity of the problem of finding a universally viable “fix” for just one medical condition? I then asked her: “OK, let’s assume I am asking you to develop a software that will work flawlessly, on every and any computer in the world, not matter how old the hardware or operating system were, no matter what other applications were installed, regardless of the operator’s skill level, whether or not s/he chooses to read and follow the instructions, no matter what viruses might get into that computer. Agh, and did I mention that you do not know exactly what was used to build that computer”. She looked at me in disbelief: “well, that’s impossible!”

I do not want anybody to think though this means we are giving up. On the contrary. I personally have and many others have great hopes that we will soon be able to integrate and apply the knowledge coming from great advances from many branches of science and technology to individually diagnose and treat patients, and furthermore, to predict and prevent many diseases before they strike us. The promise of personalized medicine, referred to till not too long ago, as the “academic view”, has been indeed a favorite of scientists for a while, but is gaining more and more support both from the “front end” (i.e., consumers) and the other stakeholders.  However, all of these have raised some interesting points that will need to be addressed. As consumers, some still understandably fear the need to expose too much information about their individual risks, or not being able to afford the cost of individualized treatments.  For other stakeholder’s perspective, check the following posts.

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The short answer I gained from working in discovery/early development in the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to implementing medical innovation is: it takes too long and it is too expensive.

True, except for some very specific conditions that had been clearly connected to genetic modifications, personalized medicine is still in its infancy. The great majority of diseases have been or could be connected with a myriad of risk factors, some of them possibly related to individual genetic make-up. Efforts in preventive medicine are not compensated.

A great amount of thought and work goes into identifying risk associations, integrate all the pieces of information, and then confirming these findings, hence a lot of support is required (money + time). Public corporations need to create value for their investors, and so are known to spend a great deal of effort to prove (positive) financial achievements each quarter. Innovation, which to me means not only discovering, but also creating and implementing something new, takes much longer than that and can cost a lot. As often said, “you get what you measure“. Fittingly, in response to my request to define innovation, Ondrej Zaoral offered (on LinkedIn) his favorite definition: “Research and development turns money into knowledge. Innovation turns knowledge into money.”

Furthermore, due to very good reasons, new products designed for human health have to pass through additional rigorous hoops. Consider the time it currently takes from the discovery to the launching of a pharmaceutical product, which was widely reported to be in average 10 years and was calculated to cost in the realm of a billion dollars. Consider also that most of these products are not revolutionary, many represent improvements of previous versions. The pharmaceutical companies were the most likely to survive such a formidable journey, but their money is drying up as most are losing patent protection for their big selling drugs and fewer new products are approved. New business models are clearly needed. A major question is: who is willing and able to pay (and wait) for real medical innovation? Maybe the investors? The government? Anyone out there?!?

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The name chosen for this blog is based on a natural phenomenon that occurs when two waves collide to create a new wave pattern and areas of increased amplitude (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_interference)

Even if not everyone remembers learning about it, many of us likely noticed this many times while on, in, or around water. If this does not sound familiar, watch it happen on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D74tN-k5nM)

When trying to come up with a term to expresses the positive effect of bringing together diversity of thought, background, educational and life experiences to create something new and positive, I made my own poll on the “message” of using constructive interference. Some of my friends got caught up in the negative connotation of “interference”, yet, those who could still remember learning about interference, understood the message and actually liked it. The physicists and the engineers were 100% sold on it! Our society is “conflict” adverse, and seeks to foresee and prevent it at all cost, however it is well known that positive conflict results in the most creative solutions.

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