Roundtable Wrap-up: Selecting and Compensating Scientific Opinion Leaders
At the June 2013 Medical Device Roundtable session, the top takeaway tips from the group’s discussion were as follows: When selecting a scientific advisor, keep in mind the role you want that individual to play (innovator, investigator, advisor, early adopter, key opinion leader, etc.) and how that role may change throughout the life cycles of your project. Not everyone is right for every role. Try to plan ahead. Consider whether you want to select one scientific advisor to cover both your near- and long-term needs, or whether you would be better off choosing various individuals for the different functions. Before you hire your advisor(s), make sure that everyone on the team is on the same page and there is a mutual understanding of expectations across the board. Make sure you clearly define the advisor’s role and what will be required from him/her in the way of meeting attendance, work product, industry introductions, speaking engagements, etc. Take the time to reduce those expectations to a written agreement. Do your due diligence. Before you commit to an advisor, make sure you review all of the agreements and policies (with current/former employers, universities, clinical practices, and other companies that he/she is advising) that bind him/her. Do not rely on the advisor’s memory or the fact that a particular party does not generally enforce its restrictive covenants. Many university policies are available online. An agreement assigning the advisor's created intellectual property to the company will not be effective against a pre-existing agreement assigning the same intellectual property to someone else. When it comes to compensation, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes offering perks to your scientific advisors that they wouldn’t otherwise receive in their day jobs can be an alternative to salary or equity. Creative suggestions include destination meetings, the opportunity to attend meetings or events with their mentors/peers, or the opportunity to use your technology in seeking research grants (but beware of confidentiality and intellectual property issues). Also, consider compensating with royalties versus equity in order to share risk with your advisor, while retaining the existing ownership structure of your company. If you do compensate advisors with equity, keep in mind that their ownership in the company may preclude you from using them as investigators in your clinical trials going forward, or if you do use them as investigators, it could taint the results of your study in the eyes of the FDA. Regardless of the type of compensation you offer, always make sure to compensate based on actual performance, not on expectations or reputation, and comply with anti-kickback and other laws/regulations.