Foundation uses gaming to inspire rad R&D thinking

Could the aggressive strategies used in gaming come to the rescue of the biomedical research community? The Myelin Repair Foundation thinks so. The non-profit medical research organization is hosting a special "gaming event" this fall for R&D experts and biotech players designed to get them to shed their carefully laid plans in favor of forging a breakthrough approach to drug research.

"Those who play games have a sense of urgency and abandon when they are engaged in a game scenario," says Jane McGonigal, game designer and producer of the BreakthroughstoCures events. "We have seen these behaviors in corporate strategic game play where there are real stakes. The game we are building for the MRF is designed to generate that sort of urgency and unleash creative ideas for finding ways to speed medical research."

Anyone who's seen gamers performing at their top level know the way they can throw themselves into the action, shedding restraint in favor of a go-for-the-throat plan for victory. That's the kind of thinking the organizers want to see in biopharma execs and researchers--two groups not known for wild risk taking. The foundation has its own approach to accelerated drug development for MS and hopes to find some new collaborators in the process.

"The current model used for developing effective, life-saving disease treatments is not keeping pace with scientific discovery," says Nancy Barrand, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio. "Gaming is the perfect tool to help foster the type of unconventional thinking that is necessary to create radical change in health care and accelerate the speed at which treatments are delivered."    

- here's the Myelin Repair Foundation release