Saturday, August 30, 2008

Healthcare: 14 million jobs and growing (NETIP Conference Panel)

Today, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel with three outstanding people: Amar Sawhney, 2006 New England Entrepreneur of the Year and Founder of 5 companies, Anita Goel, MIT Technology Review Under 35 Innovator and Founder of Three Companies revolving around nanotechnology, diagnostics and medicine, and Pravin Chaturvedi, Biotech Entrepreneur, Founder of 3 companies and mentor of many aspiring entrepreneurs. These are three extraordinary entrepreneurs with PhDs and hundreds of patents between them who are not only well recognized for their successes, but serve as inspirations and role models for all of us in the industry.

Here are some conclusions from a very interesting hour-long panel discussion. The topic of the panel was Healthcare: 14 million jobs and growing. I've also attached some slides we put up to set the stage for the event. These slides are best seen by clicking on them so you can see them at a good size

• Education is important. But Amar says what’s more important is attitude not degrees. There are many skills that can be translated into this industry - like quality control, manufacturing and fundamental skills.
• We are all in this industry because we want to make a difference. Amongst this next generation of 20-somethings there is a groundswell of social entrepreneurship because this generation is interested in searching for meaning
• The chips that Nanobiosym is creating will help reduce the cost of healthcare through point of care molecular diagnostics because we cannot afford to ignore the 5.5 billion people and make drugs for a few. But they will do it in a sustainable manner where the business does make a profit
• Pravin wants to create drugs that make people better. Corporate attitudes have changed too when he compares it to the time twenty years ago when he was told that malaria drugs don’t matter
• Amar says speed is important in medtech so it does not make sense to leverage India to start a medtech company today; in biotech cost is important so India can play a role in medicinal chemistry and outsourced research
• Wellness is creating an entirely new consumer-driven industry with new products
• Be business savvy when you are evaluating companies to join. Understand whether the company is creating something that people will buy and result in a sustainable career before you jump into the fray
• There is a lot happening at the convergence of technologies – nanotechnology, medicine and information technology for example; look at ideas that are using these skills
• When you think of India, don’t think of cost arbitrage because that doesn’t last (look what happened in IT). Instead focus on areas where knowledge can be transferred
• There are regulatory and IP barriers in working outside the United States. In India, step into these areas with care. But the government is willing and keen to bring knowledge into the country
• There are cultural barriers to be overcome. For example, Indians don't really understand stock options so give cash instead. Retention is an issue in areas.
• India is good for contract research and outsourced services and IT at the moment.
• You're all young, so try India for a couple of years, don't take our word for it.
• This is an exciting time for the healthcare industry. It is recession-proof and will continue to grow. Much will happen here and in other places that will be relevant to all of us.
• Boston is a great place to be. Lots of jobs. Its hard to find scientists to fill positions here and easy to network your way into jobs.

Thanks to Mahak Nayyar, panel producer and Shobhit Chugh, Conference Organizer for inviting us.

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