Segmentation: The #1 Factor of Disease Area Evaluation

Zebra is regularly asked about what type of research and intelligence should be explored at different stages of the drug development cycle. We have therefore created a series of posts that look to provide some answers. The posts in this series will follow the different phases of the drug development process and disease area evaluation. Therefore, we have created an image showing the key commercial activities throughout the drug development pathway. Please click here to download the graphic that follows along with these posts.

Prioritising Commercially Attractive Disease Areas

Firstly, as part of a disease area evaluation (lead optimisation), there are four core areas a company needs to consider:

  1. Disease segmentation
  2. Unmet need by disease area
  3. Differential disease analysis/disease profile
  4. Price benchmarking and competitor landscape

For this post we will concentrate on segmentation—a key activity that must be undertaken and/or refined at each key decision point. Segments are generated from the initial market landscaping exercise and must be established prior to any needs assessment. 

Segmentation at this stage is related to diseases within a portfolio or indications within a disease. It provides the basis for identifying key markets prior to the GO/NO GO decision before Phase 1 trials begin.

What to Include in Your Analysis

The objective of segmentation is to prioritise the target disease areas in terms of commercial attractiveness. Included in this analysis should be:

  • Identification of treatment patterns within each option 
  • Review of the dynamics of each disease 
  • Assessment of size (patient/volume/value) 
  • Establishment of the key influencing customer groups with prioritisation 
  • Preliminary view of levels of unmet medical need within each disease 

How you conduct segmentation at this stage depends on the amount of information that is readily available without the need to buy bespoke data. Large pharmaceutical companies have access to large volumes of data. However, smaller companies have to be more savvy with publicly available data and literature reviews.

Zebra has found that a simple Excel file compiling all of the secondary data works well when looking to compare key parameters across different diseases. The matrix of information can include both internal company and external (market) perspectives:

  • Internally: establishes the level of development risk and difficulty of development
  • Externally: reviews the market drivers, barriers, value and patient volume of the disease

This data is then used to:

  • Generate heat-maps that show where the opportunities are at a glance.
  • Establish value vs. market size and return. For example, assessing an area of low patient volume vs. high value per patient, or high patient volume vs. lower value per patient.
  • Determine risk scenarios. For example, high return and risk for medium return and low risk.

These are the types of decisions that a Commercial Opportunity Assessment will support.


Stay tuned for our next post, which will look at unmet medical need requirements.

If you would like more company-specific ideas of how to conduct this work, please feel free to reach out to us.

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