Callaborative Approach Speeds Way to MS Cure
By Carol Menaker
After 25 years and three startup companies, Scott Johnson,
MBA 81, is consumed with his fourth and, he will tell
you, most important startup venture yet: his nonprofit
medical research foundation committed to accelerating
the drug discovery process for the treatment of Multiple
Sclerosis (MS), the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF).
Though MRF certainly accommodates Johnson's interest
in building new organizations in new ways, it also incorporates
his own personal journey as someone living with MS.
Johnson has been living with the random symptoms of
MS since he was first diagnosed with the disease at
the age of 20.
"In the last 50 years, there have been hundreds
of millions of research dollars spent on investigating
cures for MS," says Johnson. "I think most
scientists would agree that a cure is still at least
30 more years away. What I uncovered as I studied the
science was that for some reason certain research breakthroughs
that might improve the quality of life for those living
with MS were being overlooked or underfunded."
Johnson believed that if he could create a new model
for medical research that would combine traditional
academic research methods with well-understood business
management tools, the process of moving treatments from
the research bench to clinical trials could be greatly
Johnson devised an unorthodox collaborative research
program in which five of the world's leading neuroscientists
who study myelin, the sheath covering nerves in the
brain and spinal cord, join forces to tackle the problem.
There's one overriding rule: To get the funding
they must agree to execute a jointly-developed research
plan and to share even their preliminary findings with
one another in real time. The scientists believe that
by avoiding the delays common in the traditional publications-driven
research model, the time to drug discovery could be
reduced by as much as 75%.
"Our goal is to have these drugs in clinical
trials within five years," says Johnson. "Once
we do that, I'll be ready to move on."
For more about the MRF, see http://www.myelinrepair.org.
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