Nuts and Bolts

As many of you may know, one of the few conferences aimed at the business of global health is coming up on June 27.  BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), the Biotechnology-Industry-Organization (BIO)-backed and now San Francisco-based group that advocates for the participation of the biotech/pharma industry in developing products for global health needs, is sponsoring its third annual Partnering for Global Health forum (PGH) in conjunction with the big annual biotech/pharma industry confab, BIO 2011, in Washington, DC, June 27-30.  I attended the first two meetings but will not be there this year (June is a nice month to be outside), but I wish them success in their goal “to discover innovative ways to drive new product development for neglected diseases.”  Based on my personal experience and observation though, we, that is, anyone who is concerned about convincing, cajoling, and otherwise corralling the for-profit world into applying their considerable product-development and money-making skills to making useful and affordable stuff for the rest of the world, should be past the point of “discovering” and should instead be focused on nuts and bolts such as products that are under development, opportunities for new products, buyers for those products and the prices they’ll pay, and deal structures.

Here’s a quick summary of what this year’s PGH offers:

-Speakers (Program):  Fran Collins, NIH director, is the keynote speaker and Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID, is on a panel; both are headliners in their fields but I don’t think they have practical experience in getting products on the market.  More promising are some of the panelists.  Inder Singh has real market-building experience at the Drug Access Program of the Clinton Foundation and there are three speakers from big pharma/diagnostics companies, but where are the smaller companies that need to be innovative to survive and are creating products for world markets?  I can think of a handful that could present their product development efforts (see my posts of 6/24/10, 7/15/10, 9/25/10, 11/28/10, 12/10/10, and 4/7/11).

-Breakout Sessions (Program):  two breakout sessions are offered (How to Access Non-Traditional Financing and Strategies for Engaging in Emerging Markets) which sound interesting and practical, but also similar to sessions at the previous PGHs which I found lacking in specifics.  If these are to be interactive sessions, I suggest providing the panelists’ presentations in advance to give attendees the chance to prepare questions and generate a discussion and perhaps action items.

-Partnering Forum (Partnering):  the PGH gives attendees the chance to register and participate in the BIO 2011 Business Forum in which participants identify and request one-on-one meetings with other attendees to whom they pitch their products and opportunities.  This sounds great, and I participated in he Forum several times during my business development career and found it a good way to generate leads, but question what the PGH attendees get from it.   I wonder if the PGH organizers have tracked participants and outcomes to demonstrate the value of participating. One idea for improving the value would be to invite specific participants who may have deals to pitch or those needing deals.

-Networking (aka smoozing):  although it is great to connect/reconnect with others with similar interests in global health, I found that I was speaking with the converted rather than possible recruits which the global health field desperately needs.  How about the PGH include special session titled “how to sell your idea for a global health product,” send everyone into the exhibit hall to pitch their ideas, and then ask them to share what they learned from the many attendees who are there to find money and deals to make or keep their companies profitable?

Overall, I’d love to see more nuts and bolts and fewer references to non-specific “partnering,” but then there is always next year.

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