Greetings from Dubai! I’ve had the good fortune to be invited to speak at the 4th International Conference on Drug Discovery & Therapy. Most of you will ask, what does Shaeffer know about drug discovery and therapy? The answer is “what the little boy shot at” – nothing. (Harry Cary used to say this when referring to the Cubs score). What I do know about is innovation and how to encourage innovation. I’ve learned that to be successful in our field, professional and continuing education, we must be continually reinventing ourselves through innovation.
Last week I participated in a Strategic Operations and Reconstruction conference/workshop in D.C. which brought together representatives from the armed forces, NGOs, various government agencies (Dept. of State, Defense, etc.) and representatives from higher education. The issues discussed at this meeting actually dovetail with what I’ve learned about encouraging innovation in drug discovery and therapy.
The intent of the Strategic Operations and Reconstruction conference was to encourage better communication across agencies in preparing for and responding to crises. The principal success factors mentioned by many of the speakers were consultation, cooperation, and compromise. They called on the different agencies to work together to develop a common vision for the core skills that are needed to preserve security including flexibility, creativity, and adaptability. Hopefully, one of the items that will emerge from that meeting will be a common vision that will feed the creation of curriculum to provide quality education and training for individuals from the armed forces and the various government agencies that will work together on the all-important issue of security and stability operations around the globe.
In preparing for my presentation on innovation in drug discovery here in Dubai, I found that similar factors lead to success. With the cost of drug discovery increasing and the financial rewards decreasing, the literature suggests that we are neglecting continuing exploration of drugs that have gone off patent, and because of this we are not discovering secondary treatments for these drugs. For example, Botox was first developed to treat muscular disorders of the eye, and now is used for skin generation. There is also little incentive to work on drugs that only impact a small population or a less fortunate population. One of the suggestions for drug discovery is using open source research. This has worked effectively in software development and there has been some, although limited success, in drug discovery. The keys to successful open source drug discovery are the same as collaboration in stability operations: flexibility, creativity, and adaptability.
As we prepare for the UPCEA Annual Meeting in Portland, I am confident that the success of our field also depends on similar success factors. We must share our lessons learned and best practices with our colleagues. The success of our colleagues will lead to our success and more importantly the success of our students.
The members of the planning committee, under David Schejbal’s leadership, have worked hard on multiple tracks that reflect the professional responsibilities of our members. The programming for these tracks has been developed by our colleagues who live the challenges that we face, and I am confident that these tracks will serve as a great professional development opportunity. In addition, we also have a track dedicated to the topic of sustainability that will feature great speakers and a series of excursions to visit sites in Portland where the ideas addressed by the speakers are being implemented.
In addition to the tracks we have two outstanding keynote speakers: Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World’s Coast and Beneath the Seas, and Michael Horn, co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.
If you are like me, what I find most helpful about our annual meeting (and actually what I look forward to the most) is the opportunity to meet and discuss with my colleagues the challenges we face and the creative ways in which they are addressing the challenges. These conversations are not only informative, they are often inspirational, and I often return to my institution inspired to try new things, to innovate, and to be flexible, creative, and adaptive.
I invite you to join me and your colleagues in Portland, March 28-30, to connect, reconnect, and to be inspired.