Will unreliable research bury your healthcare startup?

For healthtech founders and funders, scientific claims and conclusions are more than policy — business models depend upon the lucid appraisal of clinical problems, evaluating inadequacies in current standards of care, a clear understanding of disease pathways, and designing superior interventions. 

At each step along this value chain, founders stand on the shoulders of the scientists that preceded them to obtain reliable evidence. When they promote their own innovations, credibility is a critical prerequisite. But where does credibility come from?

A 2012 study selecting 50 common cookbook ingredients found that 80% had publications linking their consumption to cancer risk; according to some reports, tomatoes, lemons, and celery all cause cancer. The to-and-fro of nutrition science is emblematic of a larger dynamic related to fickle research findings across disciplines. Because investigators seeking to build upon seminal studies struggle to reproduce the original findings, researchers have deemed the problem a reproducibility crisis

Simulations have found that up to 85% of published findings could not be replicated. In turn, tens of billions of dollars are wasted and countless patient lives are adversely impacted annually due to unreliable research. 

The Intersection Between Reproducibility and Healthcare Venture Capital

Historically, academic research and healthcare VC have had considerable overlap, but in recent years, this co-dependence has increased as researchers are looking more and more for financial support. Government research funding has seen a steady decline, with private sources now supporting almost 60% of the spend. Biomedical VC has been portrayed as a critical source of risk capital for early-stage research and a key engine for its translation at later stages.