Did you know that the seven big Facebook holders, including Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, and Sean Parker, hold shares totaling $25 billion? By comparison, all the 12 health care billionaires on last year’s issue of the Forbes 400 Richest People in America had a combined net worth of a measly $28 billion.
Forbes’ Matthew Herper concludes, “There’s not really much doubt: if you want to reach the upper echelons of wealth, creating a social networking site is a better bet than inventing a drug.” Sound depressing? Never fear, He had some suggestions as to how the medical device industry could change so that entrepreneurs might break through the glass ceiling and enter the upper stratum of the mega wealthy:
- De-emphasize drugs. Right now research in medicine is often centered around medicines. Leland Hartwell, the Nobel laureate who used to run the Fred Hutchison Cancer Institute, used to complain that we could make more progress in cancer by focusing on diagnostics.
- Innovate toward disruption: Right now it might cost $2 billion or more and a decade to invent a drug that’s ready to give to people, but does that have to be the case for every drug?
- Make more research “pre-competitive:” Too much of the science done at drug companies is locked up inside the silo of a single drug giant, not allowing the free exchange of ideas that leads to real innovations.
- Change the way patents work: In the tech business, a device can be protected by hundreds of patents. In the drug industry, you’ve really only got one, and it has a twenty-year life span. Often, by the time it hits the market, half the patent life is gone. In many cases, the true usefulness and the side effects of a medicine are not apparent until after it becomes generic.
I personally love facebook. I use it every day. I post pictures and videos of my kids and keep in touch with people that I probably never would know how to contact if it weren’t for facebook. However, it seems to me that saving lives and making things that improve people’s quality of living should be worth more than the convenience of being able to share a picture of your kid in his Halloween costume with someone you haven’t seen since high school 25 years ago.