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Is anyone at the helm?

I haven’t heard of anyone who doubts the staggering potential of the point-of-care diagnostics industry and the positive impact that it could provide to many areas of life. The benefits for healthcare alone should attract the immediate attention of anyone taking a strategic view of developing the IVD sector for a better future.


I’m not demanding eye-watering levels of financial investment (although… you know). I’m just proposing that we would benefit from a sense of direction to help the cliched “joined-up thinking”. The combined efforts of academia, charities, associations, national institutions, central governments, OEMs, research companies, manufacturers and distributors stand a better chance of progress in managing conditions and illnesses than piecemeal efforts that are mainly focused on producing short-term benefits.


Maritime metaphors are always handy. The prevailing winds of market forces will provide impetus to anyone with a functioning hull and sail, but a good rudder and a competent sailor at the helm will reach a required destination faster and with greater precision.


A rudderless industry?

There are some big questions that I’ve been asked and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know the answers to them. It’s not even clear where to find information, so if the players in the IVD sector continue to act in isolation with imperfect communication, answers to the big questions will remain a mystery.


For example, I don’t know if there is a plan to respond to a future pandemic.


The World Health Organisation’s disease X is back in the news and I’ve seen that Oxford University and Porton Down are involved, but any planning or preparation for a hypothetical pandemic hasn’t filtered through the layers of the IVD industry. If the plans are being kept in-house by the state and its supporting institutions, they’re cutting out a huge amount of knowledge and experience but, that’s ok. However, if the practical roll-out of their plans involves mobilising resources throughout the supply chain, we’re in the dark.


Whether that approach is by accident or design, I hope that someone is factoring in the corrosive effect that the Covid-19 response had on trust in centralised management. I might vent my spleen on that one in a future blog, but suffice to say that some very good businesses were wrecked by the arrogance and ignorance of the ‘higher-ups’ and their esteemed advisors.


On an equally important but more routine level, is anyone co-ordinating efforts to tackle longer-term health initiatives? The IVD sector has the potential to detect risk factors and early signs of cancers and degenerative conditions. We could have a massive positive impact on healthcare outcomes. There may well be more profit in managing illnesses than curing them, but even the most Machiavellian would see the benefits of reducing the burden on the healthcare system and having a healthier workforce. I assume that improving health is a good and desirable thing.


Healthcare priorities are necessary if we want to maximise impact. Anyone who insists that ‘all’ healthcare issues are a priority is a well-meaning buffoon. Methodically tackling fewer issues will deliver more success than a diluted scatter-gun approach. A climate where the priorities are determined by the potential for commercial success is fine but won’t automatically deliver the biggest benefits. The next breakthrough IVD devices could be aimed at tackling breast, prostate or cervical cancer, maybe even long covid, Alzheimer’s or MND. If we’re looking further afield, water quality, malaria and TB. However, if the big money is in something like helping people to optimise their gym programmes, that’s where the resources will be focused.


I can only speak for myself and I know there might be some fantastically co-ordinated work going on that I’m not privy to. If governments, their advisors, academics and associations are looking at the big picture and taking a strategic view of the IVD industry, they’re not effective.


Most of the people that I know in this industry have strong ideals and are arguably more driven by the prospect of breakthrough technology than wealth (it’s great when the former delivers the latter). I think that most would support collaborative initiatives but in the absence of a guide, we are necessarily driven by our own short-term pressures.


Anyone who wants to tap into an immense resource that’s capable of making a huge positive impact, doesn’t have to look too far. All we’ll need to get things moving is an objective, a co-ordinating body, enough investment to mitigate risk and a reward for success. I don’t care who steps forward to get the best from our industry, but when they do, feel free to let us know.




As ever, feedback welcome.





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