Open Innovation From A Practitioner's Perspective

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Kudos to CureTogether

I have been meaning to write about an interesting site called CureTogether. I first heard about them a few months ago and have been following them ever since. It’s a great idea, and feels similar to PatientsLikeMe, with a few notable exceptions – Patients Like Me sells it’s data (anonymized) to pharma companies. Members of the community are aware of this and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea. Money doesn’t grow on trees and unless one of them is the spouse of a famous entrrepreneur, the optons are few. The other notable exception is CureTogether is really trying to rally the global open science community. I get the impression that it’s not just about collecting patient data (which is impressive) but they also wrote what they call the Open Source Health Research Plan.

I like the plan. A lot. They cover many important points and the goal is a noble one. I have a few suggestions to the plan. Minor ones, but here goes:

1) Encourage pre-competitive AND open collaboration, whether you are a pharma company, insurance provider, hospital chain, device manufacturer, etc. This strategy is absolutely critical to sustaining innovation in a cost-effective manner. Here’s another blog post I read recently that talks about open innovation & big pharma. I agree with every point the author makes. Another example of pre-competitive collaboration is the Innovation Learning Network. And don’t think big pharma isn’t thinking about doing this themselves. Novartis and Eli Lilly both have developed open strategies around data sharing and scientific collaboration. Small steps, but steps nonetheless. And finally, Steve Friend left Merck to start Sage Bionetworks, an open source drug discovery company.

2) The community at Cure Together should not be limited to people with diseases. I personally am not affected by any major disease but feel I can still contribute to the community. And maybe I will be affected someday but that shouldn’t be a criteria for acceptance within the community. Finally, I want to be a part of this and almost feel unwanted since I don’t have a particular illness. Maybe the community is open to everyone, if so it should be made more clear.

3) Encourage the experts in the community to identify the major challenges to curing these diseases. Yes, I understand that some of the diseases referenced in Cure Together are incurable, so it’s not fair to say “our challenge is curing endometriosis”. Break it down into smaller chunks that non-biologists can understand and maybe you’ll get an answer, similar to the solver who answered several ALS-related questions posted on InnoCentive.com. And guess what, the community itself can begin to defragment these grand challenges! Just give them the tools.

In summary, I wholeheartedly applaud Cure Together and am hoping they achieve great success!!!

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