The current system of drug discovery is a primitive one severely hampered by the crude models we have of the diseases we try to treat. Typically, single researchers, or closed teams of researchers, purseu a molecular target or disease pathway understanding in isolation until perhaps years after the discorvery when the new ideas are transmitted as scientific papers or patents. Moreover, traditional players in academia and industry are not incentivized to share with each other, let alone with patients to build informative disease models. In this closed medical information systems, data is controlled by companies to protect intellectual property (IP), and by individual researchers to protect publication and grant-raising ability. The system is designed as if every new program is destined to deliver an approved drug long before there is a reasonable probablity of success.
A major contributing factor to this problem is the current reward structre of the medical-industrial complex. We believe that it is important to enable research where data and models of disease are jointly evolved. We also believe that recognition should be gained by tracking who uses what data and tools. This recognition will need to be driven by everyday citizens, whose primary focus is on impacting disease, not climbing academic ladders or making profits. Our goal with the platform, Bridge, is to redefine the reward structure around sharing medical information in an effort to build better models of disease thatre-imagine the traditional roles that patients, researchers and funders play.
The goal of this current project is to pilot three seed projects - Fanconi Amemia Project, Real Names Discovery Pilot and Breast Cancer Project - through this platform that will enable us to test new ideas and understand better how to bring the open source movement to medical discoveries and drive systems change around eliminating disease by activating citizens-patients, researchers and investors through real-time access to knowledge.
Bridge is planned in three phases. Phase I includes the customized design, development, and launch of the platform at the Sage Congress in April 2012. Phase II includes the testing of the pilot phase of the marketplace for three "activated" communities from April 2012 until April 2013. Phase III will be launched in 2013 to drive individual participation. The three key activities in this pilot proof of concept phase are (1) framing and design of the customized platform, (2) identification of "activated" disease communities and competitions to be run on BRIDGE and (3) identification of alternative incentives to influence the current medical-industrial complex. We have established on Advisory Council for BRIDGE with experts who include John Abele, Boston Scientific, Inc.; Jeff Hammerbacher, Cloudera; Josh Knauer, Rhiza Labs; Peter Kapitein, Inspire2Live; Dr. Susan Love, Army of Women; Dr. Eva Guinan, Harvard and Sharon Terry, Genetic Alliance. This pilot project is supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Framing and design of the platform is critical to allow for collaboration across patient groups, researchers and funding organizations in a manner that questions the status quo and expands these archetypal roles. Citizen-patients are not only able to help identify problems worth solving, but follow the progress of research projects and their individual data. Researchers are posed collaborative challenges on "crowdsourced" problems vetted by a Research Council that appropriately frames the challenge. The challenges are run on Synapse, a computational space that provides an open source environment rich in curated and standardized data combined with analytical support. In this new discovery system, everyone relies on everyone and information becomes non-hierarchical, catalyzing a trust network and offering shared value. Additionally, when information is openly available through BRIDGE to everyone; all involved in developing new models of disease become accountable to the world. The platform encourages smarter allocation of resources emphasizing collaboration. This will lead to the development of new reward structures that drive innovation in medical discovery.