Thoughts on Confused of Calcutta’s thinking about innovation and business models

A comment on JP’s blog post about innovation and business models. Think this may have been pushed into the spam filter as a comment as it mentions things like cures for baldness, malaria, pills, etc.

Ho hum.

Interesting and topical post. I read a recent article (Umair Haque?) along the lines of the world’s best business model is one that produces products that work – the innovation should come from the greatness of the product, not the greatness of the business model.

The Independent had the best coverage of the polypill meme this time round I think – This is a common idea and it is a sad fact that medicine and health are driven, less by doctors than by the pharmaceutical industry.

Malaria affects approximately 250-500 million people per year (note large range) and kills approximately 1-3 million people (mainly <5 years old) per year in the world’s poorest countries. It has been estimated that malaria COSTS Africa about $12billion per year. It has also been calculated that $3 billion of aid, appropriately directed, could bring malaria under control. Most of the technology is already developed. If these numbers are correct, there is an economically rational argument for fixing the problem. The problem is that theĀ  people who pay are not necessarily the people that benefit and the value to the big pharma companies in fixing something at cost is zero.

Male Pattern Baldness treatments are worth approximately $3 billion. Male pattern baldness does not kill many people but is a ‘Western disease’. There is more innovation in male pattern baldness treatments than in malaria treatments as there is more money in it.

I think my point is that sadly people obsess with the business model from the outset. If the objective is to make money, only certain outcomes are possible. Other outcomes are possible with well-articulated non-financial goals.

Only rarely, do we get clear and succinct goals that do not reference money these days – putting a man on the moon and returning him safely by the end of the decade was one of the most notable of the last 50 years. Look how much it cost but there were spin off benefits.


Perhaps an enlightened combination of someone like Dr Reddy, viewed as a Pariah by the pharmaceutical companies as he does not, in their view, respect copyright, (he generally works around or uses out of patent compounds) and a western philanthropist could do something about this one?