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Publication Detail
Commercializing a disruptive technology
Building any biotech business is hard, but building one based on a new, unproven technology or approach requires special care. Ever since its inception in the 1970s, the biotech sector has been characterized by technological waves, each of which has spawned successive generations of ventures, and by cycles of boom and bust. Thirty years ago, taking a therapeutic protein developed through recombinant DNA technology all the way from discovery to registration represented a triumph in itself for the biotech industry. Since that time, most entrepreneurs have been able to build very respectable businesses around a piece of intellectual property (IP) surrounding, for example, a previously unknown class of biological target, and have simply used existing technologies to develop a new chemical or biological entity. But every decade, there have been a few company founders facing the more formidable challenge of commercializing a completely new technology—perhaps a new type of therapeutic modality (for example, monoclonal antibodies, antisense, ribozymes, small interfering RNAs or DNA vaccines) or a new type of service (for example, structure or pathway modeling, or information provision and analysis)—with relatively limited business or scientific precedent on which to base their business. Although the payoffs for entrepreneurs who are among the first to catch these technology waves have sometimes been enormous, so have the risks. The euphoria surrounding disruptive technologies and the influx of capital that accompanies it is often short lived. In this article, I outline some strategies to increase the chance of success for a business that is first in a new marketplace.
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