Strategies to Quicken the Pace of Medical Research

Using online gaming to generate ideas that help accelerate the pace of medical research and drug development

Field of Work: Accelerating the pace of medical research

Problem Synopsis: Owing to misaligned incentives among those who fund, conduct, commercialize and regulate medical research, the number of new treatments and cures for chronic and life-threatening diseases has stagnated since the 1950s.

Synopsis of the Work: On October 7–8 and November 9–10, 2010, the Myelin Repair Foundation—which aims to speed the discovery of treatments for multiple sclerosis—held Breakthroughs to Cures. The online gaming event allowed players to brainstorm new ways to accelerate the pace of medical research and shorten the time to market for new medicines.

Key Results: Some 400 players on five continents produced thousands of ideas. They included using telemonitoring and Skype video to enroll patients and speed data collection in large-scale clinical trials; creating a “botnet” composed of 100 million personal computers to aid computational drug analysis; and offering “X Prize style” contests that offer large monetary rewards for treatments and cures for intractable diseases.