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. Read the rest of this entry »