October 24th, 2011
Posted by Caroline Popper, M.D., M.P.H.
Grand Challenges—the call to identify and resolve the biggest barriers to resolving global problems—have been around awhile. They started in 1900 with the German mathematician David Hilbert, who identified 23 major mathematics problems for his colleagues to solve (some were handled quickly, while quite a few have resisted resolution). The U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) has regularly held Grand Challenges, which sparked innovation in unmanned vehicles and other technologies. And in the biomedical field, the 2003 Gates Foundation Grand Challenge posed 14 issues in global health; more than 1,000 proposals were submitted within three months of the foundation’s announcement, and the program is still going strong.
Today, there’s a new Grand Challenge and those of us in the life science community have an opportunity – if not an outright obligation – to respond. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) wants to hear from us. It is the White House’s second grand challenge; the first was a sweeping quest for technological innovations. But this time, the OSTP wants input from the biomedical, biotech and research communities for its National Bioeconomy Blueprint. The White House asks a wide array of questions from “Identify one or more grand challenges for the bioeconomy…and suggest concrete steps that would need to be taken by the Federal government, companies, non-profit organizations, foundations and other stake holders to achieve this goal?” to possible new solutions for funding and venture capital to finding new ways of predicting protein function from genes.
OSTP is collecting responses until December 6. As an M&A advisory and specialty consulting firm committed to helping clients across the life sciences spectrum address complex challenges, we are interested in providing input to the OSTP – and we would love to take your thoughts into consideration.
What stands in the way of resolving our biggest biotechnology and medical issues? What do you think are our grand challenges?
- Do they lie in the development of regenerative therapies, such as the successful use of inducible pluripotent stem cells, or the regeneration of cardiac cells or tissue engineering of dental pulp?
- Are they related to working out the connections between synesthesia and other cognitive illusions, or to maintaining cognitive fitness, even so far as fending off neurological diseases?
- Is the biggest challenge how to educate consumers, providing members of the public the tools they need for healthy living and wise medical choices? Is it related to wireless technology and its impact on delivering health care?
- Is personalized medicine the biggest challenge, combining molecular analysis with diagnostics for targeted therapeutics?
Meet the challenge by sharing with us your proposals for how to meet the grand challenges! We’ll prepare a comprehensive summary of your ideas that we hope will serve as the basis for both responding to OSTP and for future blogs. Alas, the OSTP is not offering prizes or awards. But as history’s shown, grand challenges can lead to grand results.