Q&A with Omar Amirana
This fall, MassBio launched the Greater Boston chapter of SoPE, the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, a global biomedical and healthcare innovation network that aims to connect medical professionals with resources and support to bring their ideas, inventions and innovations to life. MassBio and SoPE share the common goal of accelerating healthcare innovation.
Dr. Omar Amirana, M.D., Managing Director of Life Sciences at Allied Minds, and Dr. Kiran Reddy, M.D., Associate Partner at Third Rock Ventures, both active in the MassBio community, are serving as interim co-chairs of the chapter.
We asked Dr. Amirana to share a bit about the unique challenges physician entrepreneurs encounter, and why launching a chapter of SoPE is an important step to support this community of innovators.
1. What are the challenges physician entrepreneurs face, and how are they different from other entrepreneurs' challenges?
Physician entrepreneurs face some serious challenges in today’s environment but they are not insurmountable. Several of these challenges are distinct from the typical nonmedical entrepreneur. Candidly, many of the challenges relate to inexperience, ability to believe that they can do it alone, overwhelming time constraints, lack of insight into the financial and economic impact of the business, under-appreciation for fundraising as well as the funds and timelines required to commercialize a technology or product, and a desire to try to do everything (often lumped into “lack of focus”). Many of today’s younger physicians are in massive debt, are overworked, and are making less money in clinical medicine than they expected. There is also a unique stigma around making money in medicine that has become much more high profile in recent years. To quote Gordon Gekko from the movie “Wall Street,” “Greed is good.” Well, in medicine, that isn’t quite exactly true. Today physicians seem to be regarded as making too much money and yet their incomes have been compressed. They are being scrutinized for conflict of interest more than ever. Physician entrepreneurs first and foremost need to understand what their objectives are. Most want to solve a problem, whether real or perceived. Most also want to benefit in some way from solving the problem. This benefit can come in various forms which can include satisfaction, notoriety, publications, monetary or economic gain, and respect in the community. The traditional entrepreneur as well as the physician entrepreneur need to realize and recognize that their goals must include satisfying the needs of their investors.
2. What role do you see the Greater Boston SoPE chapter playing in addressing those challenges?
First, SoPE is designed to aggregate, enlighten and educate physician entrepreneurs. Second, SoPE will strive to provide access to appropriate resources. We will encounter many levels of experience, knowledge, and capability. One of our goals will be to channel and funnel available skills optimally to help ensure success. Much of this will be though the development and use of an extensive network of experts to help the physician entrepreneur. Third, we will attempt to help manage expectations. There is no question that these are early stepping stones to a larger mission of optimizing patient care by solving important clinical problems while helping commercialize technologies, improving clinical outcomes, reducing costs, all while driving job creation.
3. Why is this important now, in the greater conversation on innovation in Massachusetts and beyond?
Boston and the Greater Massachusetts area is arguably the most vibrant medical and clinical environment in the world. The intellectual horsepower roaming our hospitals within a short drive of the center of Boston is truly awe-inspiring. There is no question that we have enormous opportunities to solve clinical problems that can radically alter the world of medicine and patient care as we know it today. Massachusetts can be considered a more conservative environment for risk tolerance relative to Silicon Valley and other areas with high funding but tremendous intellectual capital is here. It needs to be cultivated, harvested, and monetized more aggressively. With this will come enormous advances in medicine, patient care, cost savings, economic benefit to many, and job creation. With all of the changes to the business and economics of medicine, it’s a terrific time for physicians to consider the entrepreneurial side of medicine. They will need help as many are not prepared or equipped for the challenges that lie ahead. We can help them address those challenges.
Learn more about the new Greater Boston Chapter of SoPE at www.MassBio.org. Learn about MassBio’s life sciences and healthcare entrepreneur mentorship program, MassCONNECT, at www.MassBio.org/innovation.