Amy Conn, Director of Advancement
November 11, 2013


My colleagues here at Cures Within Reach have attended the Milken Institute’s Fifth Annual Partnering for Cures meeting in New York before.  But for me, it was my first experience with “business speed dating” at the Grand Hyatt with many hundreds of people working to weave a functional cloth out of the tangled threads of the healthcare industry.

I liked it – and while I appreciated the full spectrum of large-scale plenary sessions to smaller break-outs to one-on-one meetings, the small to mid-size environments offered me the most useful information and interaction. 

In a session examining The Art and Science of Multi-stakeholder Collaboration, panel members discussed various collaborative models with which they had been involved.   Maria Friere, President of the Foundation for the NIH and James Greenwood of BIO were some of the panelists, but the comments that stood out for me the most were made by Gigi Hirsch, President of the Center for Biomedical Innovation at MIT.  She noted a few factors that defined successful collaborations:  mutual accountability - like job reviews for organizations working in tandem - and the importance of non-duplication.  I loved this one because it was so wonderfully obvious and powerful:  Collaborations are MOST effective when everyone’s strengths are leveraged and when there is not a similar collaboration with similar goals already at work.  How does one know whether a collaboration in the works already exists?  MIT is working on that too…

Collaboration was certainly the buzzword du jour – although it came in other forms: de-siloing, public-private partnerships and consortia, to name a few.  

Another thought-provoking panel I attended looked at re-defining failure.  It was discussed in conjunction with open science and the pharmaceutical industry’s progression toward transparency.  Our culture’s obsession with success was addressed, and while I think that might be a bigger problem than could be solved by those in the room, I appreciated Stephen Friend’s concrete thoughts about scientific publication practices as a incentive or disincentive for researchers.  Basically, he noted that scientists can be reluctant to participate in discussions of negative research results, or to dialogue with others in their research ideas because they are all jockeying for first and last authorship of peer-reviewed articles in top-tier journals.  Their livelihood depends on it, so unless that structure and incentives are changed, scientists will not be inclined to participate in public discussions of their success AND failure in the lab. 

There were many other themes moving in and out of all panels: 

  • Measurable outcomes
  • Big data
  • New financing structures
  • The potential effects of Obamacare
  • The rising influence of patients/patient advocacy groups

As a non-profit looking to form effective partnerships with other non-profits, with powerful individuals and with for-profit organizations, I am pleased with the connections we made, and I look forward to next year at Partnering for Cures. 

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