We can speculate on what a real neuro-marketing and neuro-business industry will look like — probably like other medical businesses. Our comments are in [brackets]
What Are Possible Obstacles to Applying Brain Research to Business and Marketing?
We can expect that the translation of lab-bench-research findings on brain > behavior will face the same problems as other medical research areas. Marketing and business is, after all, just another branch of psychiatry and brain physiology.
So we don’t have to go into all this without templates or models for coping and application. Medical research on advanced topics and application to clinical practice and treatments already exist and have been studied, modeled and put into clinical use.
Marketing and business application of brain research is just another kind of “clinical” application.
Here, for example, is a doctor’s discussion of some of these obstacles with the latest genetic findings:
“Just as our molecular medicine revolution is about to go to the clinic, we find government and foundation funding for translational research in short supply. How can this be? We have already accomplished so much in our initial translational efforts..remarkable studies of gene sequence and expression promise to provide us with the tools to define the genetic basis of all the inherited diseases and cancer. Why, therefore, do we now find ourselves in a crisis characterized by what we appreciate as dwindling support for translational research, the research that is so necessary if we are to apply the fruits of our basic knowledge for the better of individuals and communities throughout the world?
Fortunately, we have not yet sacrificed the fundamental source of clinical or translational research: our basic biomedical research grant program. [This will be replaced by corporate sponsorship, except a new model for sharing basic research vs proprietary work will need to be developed.] It has continued to grow, albeit slower than in the past. That is fortunate because we all agree that appropriate public funding of basic research by the individual peer review mechanism is absolutely required if translational clinical research is to occur at all.”
[All business and marketing folks need to pay attention to the necessity, it is not negotiable, for traditional peer-reviewed research.]
The Hard Realities of Finding Real Knowledge
“I estimate that one has to perform at least a hundred basic experiments in order to stumble on one that can make it to the clinic, and no one can predict where the best basic research will be undertaken. Brilliant ideas may emerge anywhere. [Best not to bet on brilliant ideas.] Hence, the commitment to individual peer review should continue to characterize foundation and NIH [National Institutes of Health] funding decisions in basic research.
Though the future of basic research, I insist, is bright, this approach makes life in the field tough and very competitive because the new biology has attracted so many minds, many of them right in this room…As a result, the peer review system will continue to select the very best, and only the very best will flourish. In this respect, these are the best and the worst days of biomedical basic science. Best because the power of molecular biology is so tremendous that we can do experiments that were absolutely unheard of only a decade or so ago. Worst because the very power of these experiments has attracted so many brilliant young people that there simply may not be room for all of them as permanent members of the field. This is in some way similar to the desire of young military officers to be pilots, an endeavor for which many volunteer but few are chosen. But, that is exactly why the future of our field is so very bright: The best want to be in it.”
[The same can be predicted for brain > behavior > business > marketing.]
Testing Ideas for Turning Brain Research Findings into Commercial Uses
Here’s how medical research is moved to the clinic. Let’s unpack this:
“Clinical research presents a somewhat different problem because productive clinical research, particularly complex translational research, requires an institutional infrastructure that will encourage and support the process. NIH has recognized that fact by limiting the number of clinical research centers that it supports in the United States to about one-half of the nation’s medical schools.”
[So the take away is: “productive clinical research, particularly complex translational research, requires an institutional infrastructure that will encourage and support the process”]
“The General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) Program, however, cannot possibly support all of the financial needs of clinical research….Furthermore, that shrinking pool of dollars is spread around a….We now face a shrinkage process that could, if we are not careful, carry away some of the very best clinical investigation units that staff our revolutionary army.”
[So there could be a shortage of resources for translating research into applications to test. Just to test, not yet even to roll out for use. Who will pay for this? Will it be like drug company or medical device companies? Probably, at first.]
“Finally, some insurance companies, which are interested in immediate profit and not in the future, are denying access to research projects by their customers. This is being vigorously opposed by the National Cancer Institute, which is seeing to it that all patients with military insurance, and possibly others as well, will be available for NCI approved protocols. This may push the private insurance companies towards a different view. Until they are persuaded, however, pharmaceutical manufacturers will increasingly utilize extra-academic contract research organizations rather than academic health centers for the development of the exciting by-products of our revolution. If this trend continues unchecked, we in this room will lose control over the clinical trials that are the desired fruits of our laboratory labors.”
[So, naturally, there will be conflicts and short-term commercial goals will likely drive behavior.]
“Concurrent with these trends, the public/private foundation partnership, upon which we depend to do the translational research that will carry newly acquired molecular information from the bench to the bedside, increasingly relies on charitable donations. This is a fact that defies logic because private philanthropies’ share in medical research has fallen from nearly 40% in 1940 to less than 10% today. For private philanthropies to shoulder the doubling or tripling of their contributions that will be necessary to replace the former contributions of insurers is an enormous and possibly intolerable burden.”
[Charitable contributions may be insignificant. One factor is the application of brain > behavior research to policy and political behavior, which may find more charitable and government interest.]
“Another important source of funds is industry, and the entrepreneurs among us have fared very well with that source. There are conflicts of interest in industrial/academic relationships, but these can be controlled. Industry’s contribution, though somewhat small now (but very large a few years ago), is vital and must be increased.”
[Below is the reality of the current state in advanced medical research.]
“We must, however, accept the fact that the continuous growth of clinical research…will slow down. If investor-owned research corporations are not to take over the national clinical research effort, our revolution will have to be consolidated. We must focus our clinical research in those large, well-funded academic health centers that can deliver on the enormous but complex promises of molecular medicine. This means that some institutions will be disappointed because they will not be able to participate in this exciting activity.
Basic research, which depends on bright individuals and less on institutional resources, probably has room for measured growth and a wider range of sites of the activity.”
[So the bottle-neck is translating the basic research to the clinic and the very expensive process of translating the science into many applications, testing them and having to discard most.
Now, business and marketing is much less complicated than, say, applying basic genetic research to treating a disease. Much less. So that is a plus.
The basic “getting” behaviors that businesses are interested in are not complicated. Think of clicking and filling out a form to buy something on-line.
The translational research will probably not be as expensive.]