Our Take: 2019 Life Science Summit

A communicator’s perspective
tyler tullis
Nico Archer
Vice President

Jun 26, 2019

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Last month, Mallory and I took part in the 2019 East West Life Science Summit at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. The annual event is presented by Life Science Washington, a 500-member trade association of innovators, business leaders and research institutions working together to grow the state’s life science industry.

DH is fortunate to work with many organizations and civic leaders who are driving life science innovation in our region. We’re always on the lookout for opportunities to gain insights into industry trends as well as ways we can better advise our clients and support business, science and health communities.

We were especially excited about the summit’s focus this year: “Advancing Neuroscience in Eastern Washington.” There’s been a lot of local buzz recently about this area of research. Much of it surrounds the launch of The Gleason Institute for Neuroscience at Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane, where researchers will work toward new care and treatment options for neurodegenerative diseases.

Once considered rare, neurodegenerative diseases — such as ALS and Parkinson’s — are affecting more people around the world than ever. And an aging population means more people are living longer with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. This has led to a surge in neuroscience research throughout the world. Large philanthropists are also supporting the cause; Washington’s own Bill Gates pledged at least $100 million to support developments in Alzheimer’s diagnostics and treatments.

The summit explored many of the opportunities and challenges this growth in neuroscience research has created for the industry. As we reflected on the event through the lens of professional communicators, these were our key takeaways:

We must think globally.

As we listened to discussions on the latest developments in neuroscience in Washington, a clear theme emerged: It isn’t just a statewide research community, it’s a global research community. To support this global research community, science can’t be siloed, it has to be shared. This presents a few challenges: How do we connect our disparate but related efforts? And how do we coordinate resources to accelerate advancements in science and medical applications?

As communicators, we must think about ways to help our clients in this space close the information gaps. We must seek opportunities for making research accessible and available all over the world in ways that advance not only their work, but also the research of others across the globe.

Information sharing is key to progress

Seattle’s Allen Institute for Brain Science provided a great example of effective data sharing. The summit’s keynote speaker Amy Bernard, the institute’s director of scientific strategy, discussed how her organization is committed to making their research accessible and available through a concept they call “open science.”

Through their research, the Allen Institute is working to complete a sort of atlas of the brain. They created a website, brain-map.org, to share this hugely valuable data with researchers who are working on applications around the world.

As communicators, it’s our job to create these pathways and infrastructure for open data sharing so we can accelerate advancements in new scientific learnings and insights.

Break down industry barriers for solutions

We also learned that when the Allen Institute was looking for ways to make their data accessible to the public, they turned to LIGO, a lab of physicists that uses gravitational waves to research the black hole. LIGO had built a global network of predictive and analytical data to make sense of gravitational waves all over the earth. Although they were in different industries, Allen Institute researchers recognized that LIGO’s system for sharing massive amounts of data could inspire the solution they needed.

As communicators, we need to think disruptively and innovatively about how to create these shared systems. To solve problems of data and access, it’s necessary to work and think outside our industries and collaborate with other people trying to do the same thing.

DH was proud to participate in the 2019 East West Life Science Summit as both attendees and promotion sponsors of the event. We look forward to applying what we learned to help our clients take their work to the next level.

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