“Perchik: Money is the world’s curse.
Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.”
– Fiddler on the Roof
As I began receiving entries for the billion dollar contest over the last month, I started thinking about what I would have submitted. The whole contest has been an interesting thought experiment and it has helped me define what I think needs to be done moving forward. It is something I would suggest to anyone grappling with a big, seemingly intractable problem. So, in that spirit, here are the programs I would set up with all that money…
1. A Patient Watchdog
In short, a committee of academics and industry professionals, led by patients, that would act as a check on the field.
Why? There’s an incentive crisis in medical science, many of the motivating factors that drive research forward are not aligned with the needs of patients and society. Academic researchers are accountable first and foremost to their institutions that judge them by their publications, while biotech and industry are accountable to their shareholders that demand a return on investment. Neither is directly accountable to the needs of patients. This committee would work to change that equation by setting standards and practices designed to put patients first.
How? Through the following:
- Creating incentives to get as many labs as possible to embrace the spirit and principles of open science.
- Helping bridge the gaps that exist between patients, academics and industry professionals through educational exchange programs.
- Stealing an idea from Vinoy Vijayan in the first essay from the winners of the billion dollar contest – fund labs to ‘stress test’ the fields ideas and validate results.
- Ensuring properly trained patients are part of all major decision making bodies, grant review boards, editorial teams and regulatory agencies.
2. Bridge to China
China is deeply misunderstood by the west. Yet, its rise is the most important story of our times and its influence over all sectors of science and society will only continue to grow in the years and decades to come, including the neurosciences. Global revenues for the neurodegenerative disorders market are forecast to grow from $27.2 billion in 2015 to $45 billion in 2022, and the following indicate that China will be the largest contributor to that growth.
- There has been a surge in neuroscience research from China. According to a 2017 study, over the past decade China went from the 11th to the 2nd most productive country in the world for neuroscience research.
- In the most recent five year plan (the main directive by which China orchestrates its top-down economic planning), brain science research was selected as one of the key priorities for the future of the Chinese economy.
- That initiative was kick-started by the launch in 2016 of the China Brain Project, a 15 year plan to make China the world leader in neuroscience.
- Subsequently there has been tremendous growth in the construction of biomedical facilities, for example the new Brain Science Research Centre in Beijing that will house 50 principle investigators.
- The government also instituted the 1000 Talents Plan to bring academics to work in China.
- China has the largest and fastest growing Parkinson’s population in the world. Some figures even indicate that soon there’ll be more people living with Parkinson’s in China than the rest of the world combined…
There are currently not nearly enough ties between research, industry and patient communities in China and the West, nor is there enough information being shared between the two. So, I would create an organization tasked with establishing mutually beneficial connections and partnerships between Western institutions and those in China, while ensuring the steady and accurate flow of information between the two.
3. Comprehensive Neurotherapy Centers
Introducing The Brain Gym (Click to download ppt)
Well, that’s what I would do.
Play us out Tevya…