Looking back at past commercial development in medicine is a fair way to manage expectations for present efforts to bring therapies to the clinic. The short version of the story is that there are certainly cycles in which expectations outpace results, but those results arrive in the end:
Like many advanced technologies, the field of regenerative medicine has gone from boom to nearly bust to boom again in the span of just 30 years. Today, there are over 55 regenerative medicine products on the market focused on diverse therapeutic areas, including repair of skin/soft tissue, wound care, cardiology, oncology, and diabetes. Thirty years in, regenerative medicine has truly "come of age," the result of a tenacious pursuit to translate groundbreaking research into therapeutic products and overcome initial setbacks that almost derailed this critical new medical approach.
Yet while the past decade's focus on scientific advances and business fundamentals has propelled regenerative medicine forward, I believe this is just the start. By reflecting on the successes and lessons learned over the past three decades, we can begin to chart a roadmap for the future that will help to ensure that regenerative medicine continues to deliver important new treatments for patients, while creating sustainable value for shareholders.
From its origins in the mid-1980s, regenerative medicine was greeted with the kind of extreme excitement that has accompanied other potential breakthroughs, including monoclonal antibodies and RNA interference. By the year 2000, more than a decade after the first companies were formed, regenerative medicine companies were valued at over $2.6 billion, TIME named tissue engineering one of the hottest jobs for the 21st century, and Barron's predicted it would become a $100 billion industry. A few years later, the bubble had burst, and company valuations plummeted to a tenth of their year 2000-high.
Several factors contributed to these setbacks. First, like many new medical advances, expectations far exceeded reality. Investors and the media saw incredible promise in early research, and unrealistic timelines were set for when a product could be on the market. Second, the initial regenerative medicine products to reach the market had limited commercial success, as the few companies in the space had not yet understood all that was required to achieve both clinical and commercial success. From a scientific perspective, the field was poised to deliver, but it had not yet developed the regulatory, business, and commercial expertise required for long-term success.
In the wake of these setbacks, there came a clear understanding of what was needed to propel regenerative medicine forward and strike the appropriate balance between promise and reality. When I joined Organogenesis in 2003, the company was emerging from bankruptcy and a dissolved commercial partnership with big pharma. In the decade since, I have experienced firsthand the rebirth of our company, and on a larger scale, of the regenerative medicine field itself. Our path over the past decade has taught us several lessons about what it will take to succeed in this space going forward.