Let us introduce Caroline Marra of Harvard Business School which is in Boston, Massachusetts. Caroline, you recently won the Best Student Paper at the 2022 Annual Conference. Congratulations! So…What are your research interests right now?
I’m interested in external forces that are beginning to shape medical product innovation, such as the work of patient groups and disease foundations and the use of novel digital technologies in clinical research.
What do you think is your most exciting contribution to academia?
I think my most exciting contribution is my work to explain the role of rare disease foundations in accelerating therapeutic development. Because this is an emerging phenomenon, there is very little prior work. I’ve spent the last few years creating a novel dataset that I hope to use to bring clarity to the important role of these patient-led foundations in creating innovation incentivizes for firms and in pioneering a new partnership type between philanthropies and R&D firms.
At the 2022 Conference you won an award from TIM. Tell us about the paper and why you think its findings are important.
In this paper, I propose a conceptual framework to explain how research-focused rare disease foundations (RDFs) lower the risk of therapeutic development for industry firms in small, otherwise unattractive, markets by proactively engaging in research-complementary activities. I show that when an RDF adopts an active strategy—characterized by creation of critical research tools and formation of collaborations across stakeholders—new clinical trial activity in the disease increases at a faster rate than when an RDF takes a passive, grant funding only approach, which has historically been the model for philanthropies. I think this finding is important for managers of disease foundations (who are often the patients themselves!) as they consider the best strategy for deploying resources to drive progress toward a cure for their condition.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I try to spend as much time as possible outdoors where I live in the Pacific Northwest. I love hiking, running, cycling, skiing, etc., and I recently completed my first century bike race (103 miles).
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