By Professor John Hunter, Tharos
Getting any product to market is a challenge but with scientific products there are added hurdles.
If your product is in medical equipment, food & nutrition, veterinary, health etc. it will need rigorous testing and supporting evidence to gain credibility with, and confidence from potential buyers a well as meeting regulatory requirements.
After many years of research and testing my company, Tharos™, launched Equinectar®, an enzyme-enriched feed supplement for performance racehorses.
The journey from getting the science right to raising investment has been a significant challenge. Let me share what we’ve learned.
Look for interesting ideas
Ideas and inspiration can come from unexpected sources. I was speaking to a journalist about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in humans, my area of focus at the time. He asked if horses suffer from IBS. I didn’t know, so I decided to investigate. I found that horses do suffer from IBS-like symptoms.
This began our journey. My advice would be to be to look out for interesting ideas, explore the existing research and see what you find. Meet people in different areas of expertise. Crossover points often bring insight and can inspire the development of something new.
Get the science right
The problem with many so-called scientific products is that they aren’t based on solid science and clear evidence. If you focus on building a company rather than getting the science right you are putting the cart before the horse. You need money to get credible scientific proof, so concentrate on that.
By building up a body of scientific evidence we have managed to gain greater buy-in from investors, helping us to gain more scientific backing. This led us to a position where we were confident in our products’ efficacy and had a wealth of evidence to prove it. Then we could build the wider team to launch the product to market.
Despite focusing on science, it’s still difficult to convince people of your product’s efficacy. The way we tackled this challenge was twofold: by working with well-respected vets and stables, and by writing and publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Fortunately, for us the performance equine market is quite niche. We began ad-hoc trials of the product in stables and demonstrated improvements in performance and overall condition of the horses over five years, providing first-hand experience to influential market leaders.
Secondly, we wrote and published articles in peer-reviewed journals which helped us build credibility for the science.
Start with a small market where you can reach the right people and gain traction. Let them see the product in action and take part in trials. Focus your writing on peer-reviewed journals for the sector.
Get expert help with patents
Patents are particularly tricky. We needed the evidence before we were confident in applying for the patents, but we needed patents before we could publish any details.
So, while we were publishing in journals, we had to be very careful about what we included. Giving away our ‘special sauce’ in published papers would mean it was in the public domain and invalidate our patent applications.
My advice is to hire a good patent lawyer to help you write your patents in order to expedite the process and to advise you on what you can and can’t include in your published research.
Understand regulatory requirements
Knowing what regulatory framework your product will fall into and how long the process should take, will help you manage your cash flow until you are approved.
This may also affect your choice of ingredients. For example, everything in our product is included on the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list, making it easier to gain regulatory approval. If you are using novel ingredients in your product it could take much longer to gain approval. Consider this at the development stage.
Given the hurdles for scientific products you will need a lot of money to get yours to market. Planning, budgeting, managing cash flow need to be your focus and will help you succeed.
ABOUT PROF JOHN HUNTER
Professor Hunter is founder of Tharos, an equine health company. He was a Consultant Physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, Visiting Professor of Medicine at Cranfield University, and is a recognised authority on diseases of the gut, including Crohn’s disease, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Professor Hunter has published books in this field and contributed over 150 research papers to major medical journals. He has also been a consultant to international companies including Shell, Unilever, Nutricia, Quest International and Marlow Foods.
Invest in Tharos on Envestry: https://tharos.envestry.com/deals/1983
Tharos is a science-led health company focused on animal digestive health, malfermentation, and the gut microbiome. Following four years of ground-breaking research into equine digestion, Tharos has developed pioneering diet management products that bestow significant health, condition, and performance benefits for horses.
Diet and digestion are key issues for performance horses and their management. Tharos presents a compelling opportunity to horse professionals worldwide. Tharos is a member of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA).
EquiNectar® is an equine dietary supplement that helps maintain normal body function and improves condition by promoting an optimal gut microflora.
- promotes optimal digestion of carbohydrates in the small intestine
- prevents overspill of undigested carbohydrates into the large bowel
- balances the horse’s biochemistry by reducing endotoxicity
- restores and maintains the horse’s microbiome to ensure a healthy gut
- improves performance and condition through improved feed conversion to energy
EquiNectar is certified under the Feed Materials Assurance Scheme (FEMAS) and is under application for Universal Feed Assurance Scheme (UFAS) and British Equestrian Trade Association Naturally Occurring Prohibited Substances (BETA NOPS) certifications.
The company are now looking to run trials of their malt-extract supplement on other animals, including cats, dogs, and cattle, to assess whether the product can be used to improve IBS, diabetes, diarrhoea and other common digestive issues.