If you're not already familiar with Gerson Lehrman Group, it's worth a look. Its financial success is impressive, and the underlying concept is simple but brilliant.

Gerson Lehrman describes itself succinctly as "the world's leading marketplace for expertise." Consultants and other subject matter experts provide details on their specialized knowledge to Gerson Lehrman, which markets this knowledge base at handsome rates to investors, financial analysts, private equity firms.

Of course, a Wall Street firm seeking to make a huge investment in a company or industry could go find a top consultant in that industry itself. Where Gerson Lehrman adds value is by making the search for that expert easier, plus simplifying the business relationship. Gerson Lehrman clients can arrange to talk to experts quickly, and even buy just one or two hour chunks of their time. In short, Gerson Lehrman sells expert "brain dumps" to people who want to get up to speed quickly in a particular area, or want to make sure they've left no stone unturned in their research. Gerson Lehrman has built a huge database of expert contacts, and facilitates paid knowledge exchanges between these experts and its clients.

Now, Gerson Lehrman is opening a new chapter in its evolution via a partnership with iGuard.org, a Web-based community where patients can share feedback about the medications they are taking.

At first glance, this appears to be a jarring departure. On second glance, the synergy is glaringly evident. In addition to providing access to expert knowledge, Gerson Lehrman is now providing access to a bropad base of experiential knowledge. This will allow pharmaceutical companies, healthcare investors, managed care companies, anyone with a stake in the pharmaceutical industry, can tap into a wealth of real-time field research on specific drugs. Are people taking XYZ drug suddenly reporting a widespread and unanticipated reaction to the drug? What's it worth to a hedge fund, for example, to get early knowledge that ABC Pharma may have a looming problem on its hands with its XYZ drug? That's just one possible application of this new partnership. And Gerson Lehrman is charting a smart evolutionary path by trying to be the leading organizer of all wisdom ... regardless of source.

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