Interview with Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters

In today's episode, Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters explains the 4 important factors to consider to successfully launch your business. She is a consultant for “sciencepreneurs,” helping them design successful commercialization strategies.

Dr. Hein-Peters is a physician with over 30 years of experience working for pharmaceutical and medical device companies. She helped introduce new drugs and vaccines to the market. Her career highlights the impactful nature of nonclinical careers like hers. In her case, she helped develop and market innovations that reduce disease prevalence and mortality.

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Launch Your Business: A Conversation with Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters embarked on a remarkable journey from her beginnings as a psychiatrist to her current role as an advisor and consultant in the dynamic realm of MedTech and digital tech startups. Her transition was driven by a passion for healthcare innovation in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Over the course of three decades, she played pivotal roles in launching groundbreaking drugs and vaccines that visibly impacted disease rates and mortality.

Recognizing that innovation thrives in startups, Dr. Hein-Peters pivoted to support emerging companies in achieving their strategic goals. Her mission became clear: to bridge the gap between innovative ideas and commercial success.

Drawing from her wealth of knowledge, she developed a strategic framework called DIVE (Discovery, Innovation, Value, and Execution) to guide startups to launch their business through the steps needed to bring healthcare solutions to the market. Kasia helps those whom she calls sciencepreneurs translate their innovative visions into tangible successes.

Seize the Moment: Empowering Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

It's a difficult but rewarding path. And I would say that with the most structured approach, diving into it, it's not so difficult. I am encouraging everyone who thinks about entrepreneurship to try to dive with my help. – Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters


The BEST way to contact her is to connect with Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters on LinkedIn.

You can also explore her website,, for valuable healthcare entrepreneurship resources that will help you launch your business. She highlights common pitfalls in healthcare startups and the key role of marketing. Dr. Hein-Peters also discusses the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare, making her an invaluable resource for clinicians interested in AI applications.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. 

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Transcription PNC Podcast Episode 319

Apply Discovery, Innovation, Value and Execution to Launch Your Business

- Interview with Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters

John: I'm really excited about having today's guest here. She started as a psychiatrist, moved into the pharma industry. We did a lot with marketing and promotion of new drugs. And lately, in the last, I don't know, since 2014, she's been involved with consulting and teaching entrepreneurs how to start and promote their businesses. So, with that, let me just introduce Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters. Hello and welcome.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast. I'm really honored.

John: Oh, this is going to be fun because we do have physicians who are thinking "I'm just kind of ready to move beyond my clinical practice", whether it's because of burnout or because they have a great idea. We've interviewed many entrepreneurs in the past, people that have done startups and even involved venture capital and so forth. You have a lot of experience and you have a model I want to talk about today. So why don't you start by just telling us a little bit about your background, and then we'll go from there.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Great, thank you. As you already said, I am trained as a physician and did residency in psychiatry, and it was a long time ago in Poland. And there after a few years of practicing as a psychiatrist, I started working for the pharmaceutical industry and eventually moved to the United States with my employer. I worked for Merck, I worked for Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Novartis. And finally I worked for a medical device company called Terumo. It's a Japanese company. All in the United States.

And it was probably very lucky in my career because I was always doing very interesting things. And this is introducing new drugs and new medical devices to the market. And what really kept me in the industry for so many years, about 30 years, is the fact that we did have a massive impact on diseases and mortality. And especially my 12 years in companies that manufacture vaccines was very rewarding because each time when you introduce a vaccine on a massive scale, the disease starts going down and it's very visible and it's visible rather quickly. So I think very rewarding career and a lot of product launches.

John: Now, the vaccines that you work on, just to kind of give us some kind of conception of this. Were those vaccines that we would recognize? Were they pretty niche or were they something that's pretty broadly?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: One definitely you would recognize. It was Gardasil in 2006, the cervical cancer vaccine. And then other vaccines that I launched was one of the meningitis vaccines. I launched one of the combination pediatric vaccines, but they are probably not so easy to recognize. And also at dengue vaccine, which was not launched in the US. It was launched in dengue endemic countries.

John: Yeah. There's been a lot of controversy with COVID vaccines but we sometimes forget if you go back, vaccines have improved health and preventive a lot of disease when it's done properly.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Exactly, yes. Yes. That's very true.

John: Now you decided though, at some point, like you said, you were doing this for I don't know, 30 years, more or less, and then you started taking that knowledge and helping others. So how did that happen?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: It was also kind of a reflection during the pandemic. And this was somehow based also on the COVID vaccines. I think we all probably noticed that the most successful companies that introduced the COVID vaccines were actually starting companies. And I obviously don't forget that BioNTech partnered with Pfizer to get a bigger scale, and it worked very successfully. But Moderna and BioNTech are the big heroes of developing very new and very effective COVID vaccines and very quickly. While some very established companies, vaccine manufacturers actually didn't, despite trying.

And actually to some degree, it proves the point that the real breakthrough innovation is happening in startups. Bigger companies are very good at taking some of the innovation that was developed, turning them into platforms, optimizing these platforms. But breakthrough innovation happens in startups, and yet, startups are not very successful. Only 10% of new technologies actually are successful in the market. Because there are also many other companies like Moderna and BioNTech, and they did not succeed.

I kind of always knew that breakthrough innovation happens mostly in startups and smaller companies. But I think at this point I said that I really want to make these smaller companies, emerging companies more successful. Because on one hand, they develop these breakthrough innovations. On the other hand, they are at a disadvantage versus bigger companies who have thousands of people and million dollars in budgets.

So, how can I use the knowledge that I acquired over the last 30 years and really help the startup founders to be more successful with their breakthrough innovations? This was the goal of leading the corporate world and working with them.

John: Okay. You identified a lot of the success strategies and tactics and so forth. I think basically from what I know, just looking at your website and LinkedIn where people can find you, which we'll talk about later is that you've actually kind of developed a model that you use when you're helping these entrepreneurs. I suppose each one's a little different as to what they really need, but I thought it would be interesting to hear at least an overview of your model and might give people ideas of how they can help their own businesses.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yeah, definitely. I come at this with the idea that you should not divide your strategy too much between different functions. Sometimes during many incubators that these founders belong to, they are taught the IP strategy and the regulatory strategy and the commercial strategy, and yet another strategy. And this all feels a little bit separated different strategies.

What I try to do is to show the founders that they really need to have one well connected horizontal strategy. I call it horizontal because it connects all these different aspects of the strategy, but at the same time, they cannot disintegrate into silos. This has to be connected.

I developed a framework that I call DIVE, and it stands for Discovery, Innovation, Value and Execution. And these are four aspects that any enterprise strategy, any startup strategy should have.

Discovery is for market discovery. What do you need to know about the market, your future customers, the patient journey, the unmet need? How do you understand it on a qualitative level, but also how do you quantify the unmet need, which then leads to quantifying the market? That's one big piece. And you have to do it all the time. You have to be connected with the market all the time.

The biggest piece of the discovery comes at the beginning when a startup founder, a sciencepreneurs, as I call them, starts developing a kind of focusing on the specific unmet need, trying to understand it better, and then trying to develop the product. When the product gets into the research and development, I call it innovation phase, because you really are developing an innovative product and how to develop the innovative product.

What are these unique things that your product needs to have to be differentiated in the market? Then the value piece is still a marketing strategy. How do you increase the value of your product or service if you are maybe a SaaS company, your product or service in the marketplace? So that's a classical marketing strategy.

And then execution is how do you execute your strategy. There are two aspects of it. There's a go-to market strategy, and then there is a scaling up of the company. This all kind of constitutes the company strategy, and as I said, it has to be one whole strategy well connected between different functions than kind of contribute to it.

John: A question that came up when I was thinking about this, and as you were talking is I guess what I don't quite understand, and you can explain is what type of clients would you be dealing with? In other words, where do they come from? Are there many physicians involved in this? Just sort of describe the type of people and clients that you work with.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: I specifically address my consulting to people who may not have in the past a very deep commercial experience. I think as I mentioned before, I call them sciencepreneurs. These are the doctors, scientists, engineers, some data scientists who have fantastic ideas. They do have some understanding of the healthcare ecosystem, and they do have understanding of the unmet need. But they actually never commercialize the product.

And I think that lack of commercialization experience may negatively influence even the way how they develop their product. I think I mostly address this DIVE framework to people who have scientific minds and want to continue doing science. I'm trying to avoid the marketing lingo. I'm trying to avoid some buzzwords. I'm not trying to teach in the marketing per se. I'm trying to show them how to think strategically about the entire enterprise and different steps that they have to take on their path toward successfully commercializing their product.

John: Interesting. Now, some of the guests I've had, and actually listeners have talked to me about, it seems like one of the biggest struggles is putting that all together when you're looking for cash, you're looking for an investor. And there's different types. I'm not an expert by any means. So, I'm assuming that what you're doing is assisting in that because you're helping them sort of structure and strategically plan and do all these things. How does that help with getting money? And are these angel investors, are these some kind of private equity? Is it all in between? It'd be kind of interesting to hear what your comments are about that.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: It actually helps enormously because there are many consultants who focus on pitch decks, and they say "I will help you with the pitch deck." Fine. They are probably very good communication specialist, and they can help with the pitch decks. I'm not saying that founders shouldn't do it, they should.

However, without a strong strategy behind a pitch deck, we are still pitching maybe the wrong strategy, and it's visible to investors. I think that the pitch deck has two components, actually. It has a strategic component and it has a communication component. And I think that we shouldn't forget about that. So I do help with pitch decks as well. But I always try to reorient the founder on having a really good strategy, really well communicated, and not just a well communicated, but strategy, because it'll not get them funding anyway. Because the investors, they can see through it.

John: Can you give us some examples? It may not have to be the examples of someone you're actually working with now, because that would probably not be appropriate, but I'm just trying to visualize what kind of life scientists or physician entrepreneurs would maybe get to a point where they might say "I need some help." Just examples, maybe from the past.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: I will tell you what questions I'm getting, what discussions I'm getting into the most. One discussion I'm very frequently getting into when I discuss the strategy with sciencepreneurs is actually the regulatory strategy. And I'm talking specifically about devices that are FDA regulated.

And so, this question comes up with early startups because they are trying to design their data generation strategy for clinical trials if they have to do clinical trials or any other demonstration project. And the discussion that we typically have is "What is the goal of your regulatory strategy?" And they're like, "Oh, I want to get my product to the market as soon as I can."

But then what is your differentiation of your product? What is your label? What your label will say about your product? And they frequently choose that path of the least resistance which is somehow understandable. But on the other hand, they're losing the ability to drive the value of the product in the market through a very strong label.

That's usually the first discussion that we have. Is it better to get to market fast but have an undifferentiated product? Or is it better to get the market a little later, will cost a little more, but then having a differentiated product? And that's a trade-off, but that's very rarely on top of their mind because many regulatory consultants, maybe they don't ask them the right questions. They say how can I get to the market fastest, not how can I be the most successful in the market. That's a very interesting question that comes up.

The second type of questions come around go-to market strategy. Is it better to position my product in the outpatient clinic? Is it that position in an inpatient setting? And there are a lot of data that have to come into informing a decision like that. That can be both, but it probably cannot be both at the same time, because again, companies have to prioritize which market segments they want to go after.

And here we are frequently dealing with FOMO, the fear of missing out. It almost feels like if I pick one market segment, I will lose the opportunities in the other. But it's really not true. Especially a small company, focusing the resources in one market segment that has reasonable potential and high ability to win is a better strategy than trying to scratch the surface of multiple market segments. I think these are types of decisions and discussions that I am having most of the time with the founders.

John: Now, you kind of touched on the idea of going in the wrong direction. Maybe even I could take it from another perspective and look at it differently, just simply, what are the most common mistakes that you see? Maybe you've already mentioned a couple of them, but what would you say are the mistakes that really overzealous entrepreneurs say, "Okay, I'm going to bring this new device?" And I do want to ask you about AI in a minute, but what are those mistakes that you've identified?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: I think a very classical mistake is to focus on product at the expense of focusing on the commercial strategy. And again, commercial strategy does influence the product development. So let's not forget about that. That's why developing at least some basics of the future commercial strategy early on, during product development is necessary. And I see that the founders frequently try to do it in a very linear way. "I do my product first. I don't have time now to focus on commercial. I'll do it later. Let me focus on the product first."

I understand that of course, there is a time when the most of the focus is on the developing of the product, but this has to be with a specific goal in mind. So, how will I market this product? What will be my profile target? What is my target product profile in the market? So, is my minimum viable product actually differentiated enough that I will succeed when I launch it?

All these questions should be answered earlier. And then obviously a company should focus on the product development, but not really push the commercial discussion for later. That's one. The second really big mistake is to jump from product development to sales immediately. So if a founder has a product, it's reaching the regulatory stage, most likely will be approved.

And then they start thinking about sales without thinking about marketing. What does it do to a product? Marketing is the return on investment function. Marketing helps founders to get the highest return with the lowest investment. While if you skip this stage, basically do not develop the value piece in the DIVE framework, jump directly to execution, I think that there's a lot of churn happening with the sales team who doesn't necessarily have clarity about the target segment, may not have clarity about messages, may not have clarity about target customer personas, et cetera.

Because that's all the value development piece. That's another one. Thinking that sales and marketing is one, but it's not. Marketing is a very separate function, and marketing also helps to develop the market itself. Sometimes there needs to be some medical education for prescribers because it's a new solution.

AI is actually a great example of somehow this thing that's coming at us and very few prescribers, clinicians understand that, understand how it works. It's kind of a black box for many. So, how do we educate them in a way that makes them comfortable using some of the AI enabled solutions?

John: Okay. AI. You brought AI up. Because I do have several listeners actually, people that I've been on Mastermind calls with that are really interested in AI. Some have certifications in various types of AI, I guess. But what is going on? How can physicians get more involved in AI if it's something that really interests them? Do you have any advice about that?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: I do actually, and I'd like to recommend the organization that is called AIMed, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. This organization runs trainings and conferences specifically for physicians. I know that there's a lot of education and events around AI. I would say that many of them are highly technical and their audience is mostly people that already have some data science background or IT background. And they're run by data scientists and IT specialists.

Now AIMed took a different approach and I think it's much more suitable for doctors. It's actually doctors in collaboration with data scientists who run these programs. And they are specifically meant for doctors and also for healthcare administration. So I think that's a good organization to be associated with. And in addition to that, there is kind of a sister organization called ABAIM, American Board of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine that runs trainings and board certifications for physicians. So, that's the one that I did.

Obviously, it does explain the technology behind, but is much more focused on the clinical uses of AI. And I think that's what physicians need. They need to understand where AI is really good already, where is it going and how they can kind of start using this without creating risk for their practices or clinics.

John: Okay. I'll put links in the show notes to those organizations if the people have a specific interest in AI. So, what kind of client that might be listening, we have physicians who have some clinical background. Not all of them, some of them have done med school and really didn't do a residency. They could be doing different things, but I know some of them are interested in starting their own businesses or developing a startup. What would be the ideal person to come to you? Someone who hasn't even started yet, or someone who really has something, they have an idea, they maybe have a prototype if it's a product or if it's a software or whatever? And how far along in that journey would they probably be most help by getting someone like you to help them kind of pull it together? Because most of us have some kind of narrow focus, as you said.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yeah. I think that the services that I offer and help that I offer to sciencepreneurs can help them at any stage. And I think it's very important to adjust what I do to what they need. I would say that anyone can contact me, and we definitely can have a discussion. There are no strings attached. I will not try to sell them services that they don't need. I will try to assess their strategic thinking at the stage where they are and see if I can help them at that stage.

Now, some of my more developed services are better suited for companies that already exist. A company needs to exist, and I can help with things like building capabilities, assessing their capabilities versus their strategy. Is there any gap there? Building capabilities, scaling up the company.

I think probably the most value they can get from my services is when they start scaling up the company and when they start thinking about commercialization. These two stages. Now if they want to pick up my brain at earlier stages, I'm very happy to have a chat.

John: Okay. You can be found on LinkedIn.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yes.

John: And then you have a website?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: I do have a website, I just would like to say that I'm redeveloping it right now, so it's not completely to date in terms of my services. That's why I encourage to connect with me through LinkedIn at this point. My website should be much better developed within a month or so.

John: Now, the other thing I would mention because we talked about it and you have actually done some live events and actually created something that's even asynchronous. It's courses or something like that.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yeah.

John: Which you say right now, you can get them to that if they need that or if you feel that's appropriate, but first contact you and then see if they're appropriate for using those kind of resources. Is that correct?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yes, definitely. I have also some free resources that I'm very willing to share. I have a newsletter on LinkedIn as well that I encourage everyone to subscribe to. It's specifically meant for founders of life science and digital health startups. And there are a lot of free resources that I'm very, very willing to share.

John: Okay. If somebody out there is really creative, they've got some great ideas, maybe they've already started developing a new business, something in tech, something related to delivering whether it's medical devices or pharmaceuticals or tech, then it would make sense to at least follow you on LinkedIn and then at some point even reach out and pick your brain and maybe even engage you for consulting, if they think that's useful.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yes. Or just an initial discussion. As I said, I don't charge anything just to chat with someone about the strategy and understand them a little better and maybe give some expert advice during the initial conversation as well. And then if we find out that I can help, then we can definitely sign some consulting agreement, and I'll be very happy to help.

John: I think that's really useful because I get calls sometimes and they'll say "I'm interested in doing this. And I started working on it, but I don't really know where to go and I don't really have any of that expertise." And so this is a good resource to have. I'll definitely put your LinkedIn and the website at least for now, because you know what? Once it's on there, it's on there forever.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yes.

John: Hopefully that will get them wherever they need to go, even a year from now. All right. I think we've covered everything I want to talk about today. Any last minute advice or just last advice for people that have been sort of thinking about doing something crazy with a new device or a new business and they've just been putting it off? In any words of wisdom or encouragement?

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: I think it's a very rewarding path. It's a difficult but rewarding path. And I would say that with the most structured approach, diving into it, it's not so difficult. I am encouraging everyone who thinks about entrepreneurship to try to dive with my help.

John: Can they, at least at the beginning, do this thing part-time and try and see if they're getting some traction before giving up other income? Even though it may be burning out a little bit, but I would think you could at least start part-time.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yes, it's possible. And I see a lot of founders starting part-time. It's very difficult to quit your job and put all your eggs in one basket, especially it's so risky. I actually wouldn't even recommend that. I think doing this part-time is fine at the beginning.

John: And then you can just get a sense of okay, this looks like it's going to catch on. It looks like it's going to be successful. Nothing's guaranteed, but at least then you have something to base a more reasonable decision on.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Yeah.

John: All right, Kasia. This has been really interesting and fun. I thank you very much for being with me today. I'm going to have to check back with you in about a year from now or so and see how things are going.

Dr. Kasia Hein-Peters: Very gladly. Thank you, John, for inviting me. It was a pleasure.

John: You're welcome. Bye-bye.


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