If two heads are better than one, than 300 heads working together have the power to ‘solve’ cancer. At least, that’s the thinking behind a $250 million effort to coordinate the research efforts of more than 300 scientists working at 40 labs in six institutions across the United States.
Staff Writer Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post writes, “Billionaire Sean Parker, famous for his founding roles at Napster and Facebook, is backing an unconventional $250 million effort to attack cancer that involves persuading hundreds of the country’s top scientists – who often are in competition with each other – to join forces and unify their research targets.”
As an entrepreneur, Parker understands that the best innovation comes from a diverse team. He seeks to “remove obstacles related to bureaucracy and personality that will allow scientists to borrow from each other’s labs unencumbered. The researchers will continue to be based at their home institutions but will receive additional funding and access to other resources, including specialized data scientists and genetic engineering equipment set to become part of the nonprofit Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco.”
While it’s easy to see the potential of such a collaborative effort, few enterprises have the wherewithal to invest in an R&D team of this magnitude. Luckily, they don’t need to. By making smart investments in collaboration solutions, enterprises can bring together the best minds to solve complex problems – regardless of where they are located.
According to The Washington Post, “A centralized scientific steering committee comprised of one member from each participating university will set the group’s research agenda and coordinate data collection and clinical trials across the many sites.”
In a case like this, where team members are normally in competition with each other, building trust is crucial for effective collaboration. A video collaboration solution enables participants to see each other and thus establish more personal connections than a traditional conference call. Participants can make eye contact with one another, for example, and respond to one another’s body language. This deeper engagement can help participants see that they are all working toward the same goal and help them more quickly overcome the barriers (like politics) that prevent them from doing so.
Video collaboration solutions can further speed up research cycles and problem solving by enabling participants to share content in real time. If, in the course of a meeting, project plans, lab findings or presentations become pertinent to the discussion, this content can be shared with the entire group from any participant’s device. There’s no need to send a large file via email, wait for everyone to receive it, download it and get to the right page.
One thing to keep in mind when enabling a virtual engineering or R&D team is the importance of security. Particularly when bringing in external parties like patient advocacy groups and private companies, having a secure, reliable and high quality video collaboration solution is paramount.
The country of Brazil has found the Polycom RealPresence Platform to be such a solution and has used it to build out immersive telepresence rooms located throughout the country’s teaching and research institutions. The network is part of a nationwide telemedicine university network known as RUTE (Rede Universitaria de Telemedicina), which provides a means for the university to offer assistance, education and support to Brazil’s Unified Health System, and specialists to remotely participate in clinical discussions and obtain second opinions in difficult cases, all within the high-definition Polycom® RealPresence® Immersive video environment.
“Brazil has one of the world’s largest and best telehealth networks,” said Dr. Luiz Ary Messina, RUTE’s national coordinator. “This is in part due to the contribution of universities and teaching hospitals … which are helping to make continued and permanent education a tenet of public health policy, to increase cooperative research aimed at meeting the needs of Brazil’s population, and to provide specialist care to patients in remote regions. This simply would not be possible without these immersive collaboration environments.”