Clinical research is essential in medicine to further our understanding of diseases and to identify better ways to diagnose and treat those diseases. Ethos Discovery has one of the most innovative research portfolios in the field of veterinary medicine, having found this success through a rigorous process for identifying and pursuing specific areas of research based on the identification of unmet clinical needs, defined as “conditions for which there exists no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment.”
By focusing our clinical research on this question, our innovations are inherently aligned with solutions to the diagnostic and/or therapeutic needs of patients. This focus on starting with the unmet need may seem obvious, but this philosophy is contrasted by an approach that typically begins with an innovation platform or prioritized skill set that is then applied to its best use case. Often this approach leads to technologies that don’t have a strong clinical application.
Identifying the Unmet Need
In clinical practice, there are numerous unmet needs that may benefit from innovation. The proximity of Ethos Discovery to our for-profit benefactor, Ethos Veterinary Health, has created an interesting opportunity for Ethos Discovery to include practicing veterinary health care professionals in the generation of our research portfolio and subsequent studies. Individuals at the front line of caring for patients have unique and valuable perspectives into the unmet needs of their patients in clinical practice. Through detailed and recurring discussions with these doctors and other members of the veterinary care team, Ethos Discovery has been successful by having clinicians complete the following sentence, “If only I had _________, I would be able to better care for my patients.” This statement has been most valuable when the respondents are not constrained by what they believe is possible.
Through this collaborative approach, once an unmet need has been identified the next step for Ethos Discovery is to rearticulate the unmet need through the optics of the pet owner and other stakeholders in order to obtain a full understanding of the shortcomings associated with the current diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for the given disease condition. This process involves identifying the necessary differentiators that a novel diagnostic or therapeutic would require in order to provide a better solution for the unmet need.
Finding a Better Solution
Once we work through the above process, Ethos Discovery expands its collaboration to include scientific partners with expertise to potentially address the unmet need through a novel scientific approach, development of proprietary solutions, or the application of an existing technology to this new challenge. This is an iterative process that seeks to continually refine the solution and align it with the unmet need, ideally resulting in a clinical study where the value of the potential innovation can be assessed often through multi-site prospective clinical trials. Ethos Discovery currently has over 50 such collaborative relationships in progress, spanning three continents.
In the context of this clinical research, it is common for commercial research groups to apply filters to projects in order to optimally define priorities and allocate resources across a research portfolio. While this approach to prioritization using commercial filters is reasonable and necessary, it often occurs prior to the preliminary data generation that is needed to adequately define the upside value proposition of the unmet need. As a result, the potential for innovation and the value of a portfolio is necessarily limited by the early application of such filters.
As a non-profit incubator of scientific innovation, Ethos Discovery has the unique flexibility to apply these commercial filters later in the cycle of innovation, allowing the inclusion of preliminary and pilot data into the necessary steps of resource allocation. This process allows Ethos Discovery to maintain its focus on the unmet needs and to consistently deploy a highly innovative and needs-based approach to scientific innovation in animal health. We believe this approach is highly aligned with delivering valued change to the practice of veterinary medicine.
Ethos Discovery is committed to the process of starting with an unmet clinical need to determine trial prioritization for both basic research as well as later stage research. This is in contrast to the common approach of starting with an innovation and then seeking to apply this innovation to its best use. Through our “unmet need” approach, Ethos Discovery expects to deliver cures to diseases such as canine hemangiosarcoma, sepsis, and other complex medical problems in pet animals. The results of this successful cycle of innovation are also intended to improve outcomes for human patients with similar complex medical problems by sharing our data and findings with the broad medical community.