Encouraging collaboration to speed up the discovery of new treatments

Feb 8, 2017
Encouraging collaboration to speed up the discovery of new treatments

In 2009, FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute dedicated to speeding up and improving the medical research system, launched a new conference called Partnering for Cures to establish partnerships between patient foundations and biopharmaceutical organizations.

Between Nov. 13–15, FasterCures hosted its eighth conference at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York, bringing together around 800 representatives from patient organizations, biopharma, academia, government bodies and investor groups.

Kristin Schneeman, director of programs, FasterCures, has helped plan every Partnering for Cures event since its inception. Here, Schneeman describes the manner in which the conference has evolved over the years, what advantages it brings in relation to speeding up research and development and some of the highlights from this year’s meeting.

How and why was the original Partnering for Cures conference established?

The overall objective of FasterCures is to quicken the rate at which potential cures for diseases are developed and, in turn, how fast they can help people. The conference was originally established as a platform to bring together both patient organizations and biopharmaceutical companies to discuss how to achieve this objective.

The conference very quickly evolved into a cross section of stakeholders interested in the same goal, with academics, government officials and investors now well-represented at the event. By bringing together different stakeholders, we can instigate collaboration and encourage new partnerships to help achieve our ambition of speeding up the discovery of cures.

What makes Partnering for Cures different to other conferences?

In general, the conference’s biggest asset is its variety of attendees which helps us approach an issue like speeding up research and development times with a holistic view involving all relevant stakeholders.

In terms of the way the conference is delivered, we’ve focused on creating an environment that encourages the participation and contribution of our attendees. Some of our key features reflect that, for example, our breakfast roundtable sessions held on both days of the event aim to bring together people from similar interests and spur conversation. Each table focuses on a different topic or therapeutic area.

We also have three workshops and two rapid-fire panels to further encourage attendee participation.

What were some of the highlights from this year’s conference?

The most notable sessions from this year’s conference were the plenary sessions that bookended each day.

This year, the conference opened with an incredible talk around the subject of creating a culture of patient engagement within organizations. The inclusion of patient organization, pharma, academic and government representatives gave a broad set of opinions on the matter and led to some insightful discussion. The closing plenary session also inspired and focused on ‘big science’ and what it means for the future. Once again, the panel – which included the leader of the White House Cancer Moonshot team, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, an academic scientist and a patient advocate – delivered fascinating insights into each stakeholder’s viewpoint.

One of our rapid-fire panels was particularly memorable as it included executive medical director for urology at Astellas, Pamela Bradt (above), among others. Focusing on how patient centricity can advance product development, the session was particularly illuminating in how pharma can contribute to our ultimate goal.

From your perspective, what still needs to happen to achieve the ultimate goal of speeding up medical research?

Probably the biggest issue right now is collaboration across different disciplines within the healthcare field. Different stakeholders with a common goal, like pharmaceutical companies, investors and governmental bodies, still exist as lone participators that should be reaching out to each other to help speed up their efforts. The recent trend of cross-communication, as well as including the patient as a key stakeholder in these conversations, is fairly new so there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Thankfully though, meetings like our own Partnering for Cures conference go toward instigating that positive collaboration which I believe can make a real difference in finding cures for diseases and, hopefully, a better future for us all.

Encouraging collaboration to speed up the discovery of new treatments

Kristin Schneeman joined FasterCures in April 2005 as director of programs, with primary responsibility for its innovation portfolio of projects and activities, focused on best practices in the funding and conduct of medical research and innovative collaborations among players in the research enterprise. Among other initiatives, she runs The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN) program, which provides a platform for knowledge-sharing and relationship-building to support the growth of venture philanthropy in medical research. Schneeman brings to FasterCures 25 years’ experience in public policy, politics, academia and the media. She served for three years as a senior adviser and policy director to a gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts, as a policy aide to a U.S. Congressman, and for four years as the front-line manager and chief-of-staff for a senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore. At Harvard University, she directed research projects on future challenges facing governments and on complex negotiations in business, politics and international relations. Schneeman began her career as a producer of documentary films, for which she was the recipient of an Emmy Award in 1990.

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