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Enhancing preclinical research outcomes

Helping DSI boost researchers’ speed and confidence by avoiding risk and waste

The challenge

Identify what value would compel users to upgrade to a next-generation platform in a change-averse, increasingly-competitive market.

The outcome

DSI determined precisely where and how to solve pervasive laboratory and testing inefficiencies with an all-new offering, helping researchers produce better science faster.

Accomplishment data

Next Mile helped DSI identify, describe, and de-risk a new opportunity, then plan the most efficient way to build the technology:

  • Targets identified. Found what, exactly, would compel users to upgrade to a new system.
  • Efforts aligned. Viewing options from the customer’s perspective settled all arguments.
  • Gaps covered. Uncertain software development needs caused the greatest anxiety, but we mapped out precisely what to do (and avoid).
  • $ saved: incalculable

DSI’s enhanced offering will accelerate research outcomes and improve animal welfare.

DSI: more natural monitoring

Scientific methods

Medical breakthroughs derived through animal testing have made an undeniable impact on human well being. However, scientific work challenges both researchers and their subjects. Early on, model animals like rats and guinea pigs required frequent handling during test administration and sampling. Handling stresses animals, conditioning abnormal behaviors and altering their physiologic responses.

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Instead, what if researchers could obtain live data from an unrestrained animal behaving normally? As researchers themselves, DSI’s founders understood the challenge of getting reliable study data as well as the stress placed on subject animals. Together, they had a collective brainwave, recognizing they could mitigate both problems with one tool.

Exponential potential

In 1985, DSI created the C85-TT, the first telemetry implant solution for temperature, biopotentials, and activity. DSI quickly grew into the market leader, developing sensing and implant tools to measure and capture physiological data like pressures, respiration, and nerve activity. DSI technology enables basic research, drug discovery, and drug development worldwide.

Becoming the standard

DSI’s tremendous success enabled countless medical science research breakthroughs. Gradually, the preclinical research space matured, and recently-pioneered practices became basic standards. Incremental upgrades were no longer enough—DSI needed a solution that would compel users to upgrade to a new generation.

Next Mile: risk out, value in

Unpacking 30 years of expertise

Change isn’t about abandonment, it’s about using what you know to get to the next stage. To begin, Next Mile centered DSI’s team, getting everyone’s ideas, expertise, and beliefs on the table by:

  • Classifying current challenges, unmet needs, and known opportunities
  • Exploring gaps in our understanding that may lead to new opportunities
  • Describing potential solutions

We find that most companies know their audience well. DSI proved that, creating a robust feature list and consensus around what a next-gen connected telemetry offering could be.

But were these ideas of any value to potential buyers? Further research was needed.

Theoretical research and planning

To become a correct idea, a good idea must survive contact with the customer. We donned our labcoats, then architected and executed a research study of our own to clarify, right-size, and prioritize DSI’s concepts. Targeting representative samples in four market segments and nine buyer/user types, Next Mile conducted on-site interviews to gain the key that would separate value drivers from nice-to-haves: context.

Practical results

Generally, user and customer research studies produce results that are 80% obvious or previously-known. It’s that remaining 20% that can change the entire trajectory of a program.

Service specifics: Activate

Outcome: breakthrough research

Better research

Initially, many stakeholders believed that growth potential might be limited, stating that “people just don't wanna spend money". Even we at Next Mile initially felt DSI’s market was so well-understood that everything had been thought of.

However, deeper investigation uncovered customer problems large and small, many of which customers stated unprompted they would “pay to make disappear”. This revealed three pieces of context that cast all potential new features into relief:

  • Day 1: Launching a study is an intricate and interdependent ballet. DSI doesn’t just make implants, they make a direct impact on whether or not a study launches on time or at all.
  • Lab management: Hardware and service problems cascade into downstream delays, affecting lead times, device availability, regulatory compliance certifications, and even study protocol.
  • Time to results: By far the greatest motivator we uncovered. Researchers want to collect less data to get the same result faster using fewer animals.

These needs and constraints presented adjacent, less-direct opportunities to improve a new experience.

Better results

That context made the path forward clear. The new offering, now dubbed “Project H”, had to solve for two things above and beyond the current system:

  1. What happens before. A single device failure, surgical issue, or software error can prevent a long-scheduled study from happening.
  2. What happens next. Researchers can collect data, but then what? Endless spreadsheet tedium? We had to help make data useful more quickly.

Researchers needed a more seamless experience:

  • Better software: added study, lab, experiment tools that go beyond data collection
  • Better hardware: improved implantation, setup, and connectivity reliability to shorten lead times and error rates
  • Services-based supportclassified
  • Advanced systemsclassified

Knowing what to build is critical. Getting there is an entirely different matter.

Faster outcomes

In a separate workstream, independent of (but anticipating) research results, DSI’s product managers produced a general requirements specification for the next-gen system. DSI has extensive hardware expertise, so Next Mile identified and solved for gaps in firmware and software requirements, then architected the likely shape of DSI’s required software effort, specifying:

  • Program phases and estimated budgets
  • Necessary and contingent workstreams
  • Institutional size, scale, and skill implications
  • Capability development and institutional ownership actions
  • Intellectual property challenges and milestones

This helped decision-makers forecast, clarifying goals and risks before any major budget commitment.

Today: grounded research

Data, science, and business in harmony

Performing in-depth customer research, targeting solvable customer pains, defining and prioritizing key features, and translating an esoteric software effort into concrete steps clarified everything that needed to be done. DSI absorbed all the intelligence and execution strategy Next Mile provided, then took the reins, beginning engineering.

What’s next for DSI?

DSI found the value customers desired. Building Project H will be no small feat, but when complete, it will further reduce the animal research burden and accelerate preclinical and medical results for humankind. Preliminary results look promising!

Next Mile helped, but this is DSI's success.

Reach out to see how Next Mile can enable your digital sustainability.

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