A Bold New World In Science: Embrace Disruption

“A disruptive technology is any innovation that creates a new market and disrupts an existing one. We live in an exponential era…either disrupt yourself or be disrupted by someone else.” Peter Diamandis, MD, CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, in Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.
Major breakthroughs in science have involved disruptive thinking which entails tackling an existing problem with fresh approaches. This requires creativity but may also involve risk. I was very excited to learn about the new partnership between the American Heart Association and Google Life Science. Together they have committed a $50 million dollar prize to the 1 team that will offer the best vision to cure cardiovascular disease. This is very reminiscent of the audacious X Prize, created by Diamandis back in 1996, which offered a $10 million dollar prize to the first team that could build and fly a spacecraft into space. The X-Prize Foundation has gone on to incentivize and fund teams that provide disruptive solutions to major world problems ranging from automotive engineering to literacy.

At the AHA opening session the CEO of Google Life Sciences Andrew Conrad, highlighted the critical issue we face- a lot of money is spent on healthcare but does not result in improved outcomes for patients. Therefore he was willing to partner with AHA to fund this initiative. He believes the solutions will arise from the application of rapidly growing technologies to the current healthcare crisis.

As an early career scientist, I am thinking about how I can be a part of this “Bold” new world. The current climate for research funding is grim with less than a 15% success of NIH grant funding. The traditional granting mechanisms do not reward creativity and risk and usually fund established investigators who are proposing only incremental change from their previous research. I am grateful to the AHA for the early career awards that they offer which have helped me tremendously start my own career. However, there is still a need for alternatives to traditional funding streams as there are more great ideas than funding.

I perused the web for examples of ways that scientists are attempting to disrupt the status quo. The next generations of scientists today are passionate, resourceful and tech savvy. They are engaging the public in their science and building a fan base through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has funded research not previously considered “fundable.” According to a Washington post article from January 2015, 64% of science related projects were successfully funded through Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding platform, with average donations of just $25. Since 2011, several crowdfunding sites more focused on science have emerged such as Medstartr, Petridish, iAMScientist and #SciFund. I am amazed at the interest and generosity of the public to fund project that they find meaningful and innovative.

I applaud the AHA for forging new partnerships and engaging in disruptive thinking to cure cardiovascular disease. To the next generation of scientists… keep looking for ways to “disrupt” the system.

Sony Tuteja, PharmD
Division of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA

Sony Tuteja, PharmD, MS is a Research Associate in the Division of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. She is focused on pharmacogenomics and it application to patient care. Dr. Tuteja is currently a member of the Early Career Committee of the FGTB council of AHA.
Posted by Kelly Kozakowski on Nov 20, 2015 11:31 AM America/Chicago