7 posts tagged “online communities”

Where are the Cures?
An interview with Myelin Repair Foundation

Posted February 24th, 2010 by

PatientsLikeMe partner, Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF), is a nonprofit organization devoted to reducing the time it takes to discover and develop treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.  Recently, the MRF launched a campaign called “Where are the Cures?” – a site dedicated to a greater understanding of the barriers slowing the discovery and development of new patient treatments in all diseases.  PatientsLikeMe co-founder Jamie Heywood asked Scott Johnson, President and Founder of MRF, about the campaign.

headshot (Jamie) What’s the big idea behind Where are the Cures?
picture-097 (Scott) The big idea? Finding a way or ways to accelerate the development of new patient treatments.Developing new medicines or treatments for complex diseases is extraordinarily difficult. But it is not impossible and it should be happening at a faster rate than it has been. I believe the single most rate-limiting factor is the failure to move promising scientific discoveries made in academic laboratories into the commercial development pipeline.The problem is fairly simple. On the front end of the value chain, academic laboratories are spending upwards of $40 billion a year in government and non-profit dollars to make basic scientific discoveries that may be potential drug targets. On the back end, the pharma industry is facing a crisis of grand proportion as a result of its dwindling pipeline. The obvious question is why isn’t pharma reaching into this vast pool of potential drug targets to fill their pipeline? Because between the two is what is known in the industry as the Valley of Death.I think two things primarily contribute to this disconnect. First, most biological discoveries made in academic labs are not patented. Without the clear ownership that patent protection provides, biopharma is unwilling to make a multimillion investment in drug development. Second, there is little to no funding available to conduct the validation studies necessary to fully demonstrate that the basic scientific discoveries made in academic laboratories will truly and safely impact the disease state in humans. Without this validation, again, the perceived risk to pharma is too high.Knowing this, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that so few treatments for difficult diseases are coming to market.So how do we capitalize on the promising discoveries made in universities and feed that pipeline? We address those two problems: protecting the IP and funding validation studies.We are doing this at the Myelin Repair Foundation and it can be done in other medical research. But it requires an open mind and a set of shared incentives that puts the patients’ needs before other current incentives.
headshot (Jamie) As a part of the campaign, you launched The Patient’s Manifesto, a declaration that the medical research system is broken and a call for massive change across industries.  Why should a patient with life-changing condition sign it?
picture-097 (Scott) We created the manifesto because we wanted to bring attention to the problem and provide a venue where new ideas would be talked about. There is a lot of innovation going on in the industry but we have to find ways of sharing it. Why should patients sign the manifesto and encourage others to do the same? On the premise that the squeaky wheel gets oiled first, we think that we will be more successful at bringing public attention to this problem if there appears to be a significant groundswell of people who care. The millions of patients and their families living with chronic diseases are the most motivated to create change. There is no implied promise here. It’s all about building awareness and attracting attention in a way that will spur change.
headshot (Jamie) Both our organizations work to help let the patient voice be heard.  What do you think a patient’s role is in making our research system more efficient?

picture-097 (Scott) I think the entities that are best positioned to tackle the Valley of Death are the non-profit disease research foundations like the MRF. Their only motivation is improving the quality of life for patients. Because we are not driven by academia’s need to “publish or perish” or by pharma’s need to increase shareholder value, we have the freedom to move among and between the players in the value chain and facilitate the process on behalf of patients.  It is largely patients and their families who support these non-profit organizations and for their investments they have a right to ask for accountability. While investing in basic research is an absolutely essential part of the equation, it takes more than that to get a drug to market. Patients should be asking the organizations they support how they plan to actually accomplish that once the basic science is completed. I think as patients, we understand that this isn’t easy. But we don’t have to sit back and be satisfied with the status quo.
headshot (Jamie) No we don’t, Scott.  Thanks for talking with us about the campaign.  For those of you wondering, yes I’ve signed The Patient Manifesto.  Have you?  Go to www.wherearethecures.org for more information.

Sharing, Openness…and Privacy?

Posted November 18th, 2009 by

Every so often, we sit down to try and make our business objectives clearer to our patient communities.  Why?  Well, we can’t have a business without you and our communities can’t exist to help patients without a business.

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This often results in our Privacy Policy and User Agreement being updated to help clarify our goals and objectives.  One of our company’s core values is transparency, which means we never want to surprise you.  Our site wouldn’t be what it is today if we didn’t honor the trust you put in us.  Because of that trust and our values, we want you to understand what our Privacy Policy means for you and make sure it clearly states what we’re doing with your information as a business.

So, what has changed about our Privacy Policy?  Well, the short answer is not much – but if you haven’t read it in a while, it will read differently (and hopefully much clearer).  As you know, we talk very openly about how we encourage our paying customers to partner with our patients (check out our Read This! section) to better serve your needs. The latest changes to the Privacy Policy reflect what we have always intended to do as a business, which we’ve hopefully expressed to you.  In this latest revision, we try to make it clearer by providing examples of what different parts of the policy means.  We give specific examples of real world cases of where and when your data is used and/or sold.

For example, over the last year we have expanded our efforts into understanding drug safety in the real world.  This started with the Treatment Evaluations – letting you tell us (and our customers) what is good and what is bad about the treatments you are taking.  Next, we piloted (in our MS community) the ability to voluntarily report adverse events directly to the FDA through PatientsLikeMe.  Lastly, in conjunction with UCB, we are expanding our efforts to measure drug safety in the Epilepsy community.  All of these initiatives are building to a better understanding of how treatments work in the real world – one of our goals here at PatientsLikeMe.

As we’ve said through our site from the start – you control your information and you “may enter as much or as little information as they like.” We just added “and should not enter any information they feel uncomfortable sharing.”  This is common sense on any website, but for new members we wanted to make it clearer.   The bottom line – the more you share about your real identity online (whether its on PatientsLikeMe or other Internet sites), the better the chance that someone could identify you.

If you haven’t see our Read This! section, please do.  It’ll help give you a sense of what we believe the risks and benefits are to sharing information.  Openness is at the core of who we are as a company (see our Openness Philosophy).  Your openness is improving patients’ lives, accelerating research and helping improve medical care.   Thank you for that.  If you have any questions or comments, you know where to find us!

PatientsLikeMe member bheywood