Additional articles and commentaries
May 27, 2010
Theme 1: Innovation
Financial Times, July 30, 2008 (with Nassim Taleb)
Pharma’s dwindling pipelines reflect the mismeasure of uncertainty, as academic researchers underestimated the fragility of their scientific knowledge, while pharmaceutical executives overestimated their ability to domesticate scientific research.
“The elements of success” (review of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers)
The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2008
Gladwell’s exploration of sources of success is engaging if somewhat tidy, and you can’t help but wonder if something has been lost in the simplification. Yet, the thrust of his argument – and the fundamental question he raises — is right on target: how much potential is being ignored, and how much raw talent remains uncultivated because we cling to outmoded ideas of what success looks like and what is required to achieve it?
The Healthcare Blog, September 20, 2009
(Initially published in abridged form in Second Opinions forum of The Washington Post)
The allure of ensuring consistency in healthcare must be balanced by the need to cultivate opportunities to innovate and improve. The temptations of quantitative metrics (however meaningless) and rigid processes (however cumbersome) are often too powerful for managers to resist.
The Sunday Boston Globe, January 23, 2011
Open innovation could catalyze drug development, and in particular help identify new uses for existing drugs; for this to succeed, however, regulators will need to give greater consideration to the potential of new drugs to demonstrate unexpected benefits.
“Where the action is” (review of Peter Sims’s Little Bets)
The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2011
Sims argues for innovating in a particular way — by deliberately experimenting and taking small steps in novel directions. While the book at times feels like a motivational speaker’s presentation (attractive but shaky claims), the argument Sims offers is of significant potential value, especially if it manages to focus attention on the often nonlinear, evolutionary nature of discovery and provides much-needed cover for the latent innovators within every organization.
“Desperately seeking talent” (review of “The Rare Find,” by George Anders)
The Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2011
Anders observes that while most organizations ostensibly seek out exceptional talent, they may not be going about this in the right way, and may be using the wrong criteria (focused on capabilities rather than character), and may be led astray by preconceived, and misguided, views of how talent can appear and present. While some of the analysis smacks of Monday-morning quarterbacking, the underlying message rings true; the real question is whether companies truly seek out the exceptional, or will they continue to fear it.
Theme 2: Genomics, complexity, and networks
The Washington Post, April 18, 2008
The powerful new techniques of global biology have permitted a level of examination and insight our scientific predecessors could not have imagined, but also create profound new challenges of interpretation, requiring rigorous statistical analysis and critical scientific review.
Forbes.com, June 16, 2009 (with Sarah Cairns-Smith)
Advances in personalized medicine – in particular, the advent of new, more precise risk-assessments and improved diagnostic tools – also highlight the need to develop more effective approaches to motivating healthier behavior.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 2, 2009 (with Eric Schadt and Stephen Friend)
Medical progress requires a view of science that focuses on integrated biological networks rather than isolated pathways, and a view of research that embraces integrated investigator networks rather than the dominant existing model of siloed endeavor.
Note that a more complete version of this argument appears here, in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.
Presentation Oct 23, 2011, Open Science Summit, Museum of Computer History, Mountain View, CA. Summary of presentation here. Video of my specific talk at link above (and here); video of all presentations given that morning (highly recommended) are here .
Theme 3: Translating promising research into clinical application
The Boston Globe, April 28, 2008 (with Dennis Ausiello)
Academic investigators seeking to partner with industry to drive science into practice should be celebrated not stigmatized.
The Washington Post, April 14, 2008
University research is not a pure enterprise; its researchers have feet of clay and are subject to an array of professional biases. Consequently, our myopic obsession with industry conflicts of interest may have the unintended consequence of distracting us from some of the more important sources of prejudice and concern.
The Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2009 (with Thomas Stossel)
The goal of medical research isn’t to publish papers but to develop new treatments for patients suffering from disease. And translating laboratory results into new therapies is not something academics tend to do particularly well. The vital role of medical products companies in catalyzing the translation of ideas into application is something critics of university/industry relationships would do well to keep in mind.
Theme 4: Not otherwise specified
Sept 10, 2011: “A goodnight story“