Most health professionals, scientists, and engineers think they have good ideas but they do not necessarily know what to do with them. Even if they do, they may not realize the many considerations involved in the whole process of commercializing medical technology. Unfortunately, some of these skills and knowledge are not taught in formal training. So, many health professionals, scientists, and engineers are not aware of what they don’t know. Besides, they may not have the time or accept the need to learn, especially if they are eager to get their ideas to patients.

Begin with low-hanging fruits

Regulatory agencies are still figuring out guidelines concerning the development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and so on. As such, Dr. Arlen Meyers, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE) and Emeritus Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine, believes it will be more appropriate for first-time “AIntrepreneur” or medical AI entrepreneurs to pick a use case that is not construed as a medical device.

“The definition of a medical device is very clear and you can look it up on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. If you are not a medical device and are simply, for example, a patient engagement tool, an education tool, an information tool or a behavior change tool, then the rules and regulations around them may not be as onerous as it were a medical device. So, I believe in picking a low-hanging fruit instead. Pick a burning problem that is causing a lot of pain with a big market size, huge market growth and unmet needs,” said Dr. Meyers in a recent interview with AIMed.

Dr. Arlen Meyers, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE) and Emeritus Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Be educated in IP issues

Dr. Meyers also recommended new medical entrepreneurs to understand Intellectual Property (IP). “It often causes problems when people misunderstand who owns the IP. So, reflect on whether you will have an IP. If so, determine what is it (i.e., trademark, patent, copyright), who should own it, how it should be protected and how can it be monetized. If you happen to be an employee of an organization, it’s best to find out who will own the thing you invent or discover during your employment”.

“Even if the institution you work for owns your invention or discovery, it doesn’t mean you cannot do something with it. Your institution is likely to create some sort of license or a spin-out but again, find some time to speak with your tech-transfer office. The biggest mistake a medical entrepreneur can make is not reading their employment contract and fully understanding and agreeing with the terms and conditions, particularly as they apply to technology transfer rights”.

Accept that some subspecialties will adopt AI more than others

Dr. Meyers added since individuals only seek medical attention when they become ill, healthcare is “sick-care” in most cases. There is a need to recreate a new ecosystem to disrupt the present status quo and it is going to take a very long time and requiring changes in leadership, structures, incentives and more.

“Many people think AI is a cure for all but in some subspecialties, particularly, those that depend on pattern recognition like dermatology, ophthalmology, radiology etc. will definitely receive more attractions. AI is a tool and it’s designed, hopefully, to answer specific problems and be deployed for various use cases. Like telemedicine, some subspecialties will find it more relevant than others, so the same is going to happen in AI”.

“What we are going to see is different levels of dissemination and implementation but I believe it will be long before that happens. It takes an average of 17 years for a medical technology to move from discovery to deployment. Of course, the pace of change has accelerated. Yet, one of the problems that people encounter when they try to become entrepreneurs is they significantly underestimate the amount of time it takes to get an idea to patients”.  

It’s never too late to learn

Moreover, it is equally, if not more challenging to identify individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset. “We believe all innovations start with mindset. However, our education systems did not select individuals based on whether they are creative geniuses. It’s more about people who know how to take tests, who can memorize a bunch of information and who, basically, are conformists. These, in a lot of respects, are contrary to an entrepreneurial mindset”.

“That’s why we created the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE). It is an open and global network to accelerate biomedical and clinical innovations and entrepreneurship. Our vision is to close the global disparate health outcomes and our missions is to help members get their ideas to patients. So, we have a pretty grand vision, which is of course, difficult to attain but, little by little, we are seeing movements where more people are getting interested in the medical entrepreneurship,” Dr. Meyers says.

Dr. Meyers will be joining fellow C-suite executives, healthcare leaders, clinical and technical experts in the upcoming AIMed Healthcare Executives virtual event taking place on 29 September. Please click here to receive more information about the event or to receive a copy of the agenda.

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Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.