Using Online Tools to Drive a Discussion About the Future of Medical Research

    • March 25, 2010

Research and development dollars in the pharmaceutical industry have doubled over the past 10 years, yet the number of new drugs reaching the market during that time has remained flat. Simply put, the system for funding and conducting medical research and translating that research into patient treatments is broken.

To help speed-up the process of making discoveries and move them into treatment, RWJF awarded a $1.2-million grant in 2005 to the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF). This funding helped MRF develop a new paradigm that restructures the way medical research is conducted, combining disease-focused scientific collaboration and best business practices into what is called the Accelerated Research Collaboration (ARCTM) model. Since 2005 ARCTM has delivered impressive results, including the following:

  • Accelerating discoveries from 15 years to five years.
  • Nineteen new potential myelin repair drug targets.
  • Twenty-four new research tools for neurological disease research.
  • Eighteen patentable inventions.
  • More than 60 different disease research organizations have expressed an interest in the model.

Building on the success of ARCTM, RWJF recently awarded a new grant of $189,430 to MRF as part of a multi-donor effort that includes additional funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Scott Cook and Signe Ostby Foundation.

Our latest support enables MRF to conduct two crowdsourced online scenario-planning activities designed to generate ideas for revamping our current systems of medical research and drug development. The activities will leverage a new social networking tool developed by the Institute for the Future, which engages online participants in simulated scenarios and asks them to play a variety of situational cards describing the best and worst actions to be taken. The ideas and strategies put forth by the participants—experts working both inside and outside of the medical research arena—will be evaluated by MRF and used to identify opportunities for testing innovations and developing effective policy recommendations to fund and organize medical research far more effectively and efficiently.

Throughout the activities, staff and invited guest experts will guide the scenarios by highlighting the best cards to play (ideas) and blogging key themes as they emerge in real time. The conversations can be followed at, a Web site dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of the barriers that are slowing the discovery and development of new patient treatments and opportunities for change. The scenario-planning games are anticipated to launch in Fall 2010; for additional information, contact MRF's Carol Menaker.