Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Blog

Jim Jordan 06-27-2017

Micro Facts, Macro Truth and the Life Sciences EcoSystem

In research, commercialization, business operations, and life in general, it’s important to realize and remember that select pieces of micro information do not necessarily add up to a Macro Truth, the complete picture.

Often times micro information, a Micro Fact, is mistakenly generalized to represent the whole. This is not necessary intentional, and indeed most of the time it is not. But the damage it can do in incorrectly portraying a universe is significant. In Life Sciences, to get a true picture of activity you must look at each segment of the entire pipeline – the Life Sciences Ecosystem –  not just one component.

Since 2002, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) alone has provided services to 468 companies and invested in 79 of these companies. Thirty-five of these companies were university companies, 12 of which were just in the past three years. Notably forty-four of these companies (56%) were not from the university. This is important because focusing on university companies alone as the benchmark is a Micro Fact. Even focusing on PLSG investments is a Micro Fact. For example, Grunenthal recently acquired Thar Therapeutics. Thar’s management team was provided early market research from the PLSG but they did not require funding and thus are not in our 79 invested companies. Additionally, Innovation Works and Idea Foundry Life Sciences investments must be included to get the true Macro Truth.

It frequently takes many technologies to create a single product. For example, inventing an automotive engine does not itself make a sellable automobile. It takes multiple components – crankshafts, braking systems, and so on. If the problem is getting from point A to point B, creating an engine helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem by itself. Even the invention of an automobile requires supporting infrastructure such as fuel stations, repair shops, etc. Although technology development is critical, it is only the beginning of the process.

In this same way, as we look at the Life Sciences Innovation and Commercialization Ecosystem, we cannot focus on just one segment for funding. Universities, Incubators and Entrepreneurs are all part of the Life Sciences Ecosystem. By focusing on just one segment, we lose perspective.

For example, research opens the door to commercial success, but it does not guarantee it.  Technology may be critical to commercial success, but it is only the beginning of the process.  It is not the complete process. What may be a factual statement discovered during the research phase of a project may have little bearing on the final product as it prepares to enter the market. Objective evaluation of factors must be balanced with a more subjective assessment of commercial appeal. An over-reliance on one side over the other can spell trouble.

It’s important to remember that even carefully selected Micro Facts may not necessarily yield a Macro Truth.  Entrepreneurs, investors, the media, and potential customers of life sciences companies must heed this truth for all to be successful in the Life Sciences Ecosystem.

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