John M. York
New ventures, either entrepreneurial or within an institution, face many challenges. A notable one involves the focusing of limited resources and efforts on a lead opportunity. Strategy researchers advocate the notion of choice and argue for a focused commitment (test two, choose one)1. This concept is essential since entrepreneurs face multiple alternatives they cannot pursue simultaneously and immediately1,2. Others highlight the non-linear relationship between pursuing multiple market opportunities and performance and see diminishing returns2. Firms need to consider multiple risks beyond technological uncertainty in life sciences, particularly around market demand uncertainty3-6.
What does a life science founder do to minimize risk and focus their choice set? Enter the current case. MyoTechSci (MTS) is a South Korean biomedical startup founded by Hyeson Soo Kim, MD, Ph.D., a professor at the Korea University College of Medicine. The company is in the pre-clinical stage and focuses on sarcopenia or muscle wasting disease. It has multiple research assets (non-natural amino acids, myokines, and natural compounds) across the spectrum of muscle health. The company wishes to pursue five different market opportunities (cancer cachexia, use in the elderly population, an adjunct to exercise to help build muscle, and muscle waster with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Duchenne muscular dystrophy). MTS’s management team utilized the market opportunity navigator to focus its opportunities, a tool created by Marc Gruber, Ph.D., and Sharon Tal, Ph.D., to guide its choice process to cull and prioritize its multiple opportunities7. With this tool, Dr. Kim and his team prioritized their various market opportunities and ended up with a lead.
In this case, you are part of a consulting team evaluating MTS’s analysis and choices. MTS is about to embark on the next phase of its entrepreneurial journey due to an opportunity presented by the South Korean government. Your task is to evaluate the current situation and decision, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of MTS’s choice, suggest risks/mitigations, and offer a next step recommendation to enhance this venture’s prospect of achieving a positive commercial endpoint.