The New York Academy of Sciences held its kickoff last night of Scientists Without Borders. â€œItâ€™s a Match.com for organizations and resources focused on helping the developing world,” said NYAS president Ellis Rubinstein.
The initiative so far consists of a just-launched wikiâ€”and, as such, leaves a little to be desired in terms of content. But the tools are all there, explained the siteâ€™s developer, urging everyone in the audience who had resource supplies or demands to sign up, make connections, and work toward new solutions for dire problems such as poverty, disease, hunger, and climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and other places.
A Kiva for scientists and technical experts? Only time will tell. But the technology certainly has the pharmaceutical industryâ€™s support. Merck kicked in seed-funding for the project, and 10 other pharma companies (as well as mosquito-net producer Vestergaard Frandsen) covered the rest.
(To check out the list of pharma supporters, click here.)
Keynoting the event was leading global economic advisorâ€”and passionate advocate for third world developmentâ€”Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. (I slipped him a Pharm Exec, and he promised me an interview.) Joining Sachs were notable speakers including International AIDS Vaccine Initiative president Dr. Seth Berkley. But what I found most interesting was the mix of participants in the audience.
There were diplomats (â€œI can only announce the names of director consulates, thereâ€™s too many associate consulates here to announce,â€ apologized Rubinstein), business leaders, nonprofits representatives, and members of the drug industry. The table seating encouraged cross-functional networking using ice breakersâ€”I found myself beating a djembe drum next to a wealth manager from Merrill Lynch and Peter Farina, head of a new R&D nonprofit Developing World Cures, who previously lead the Viramune R&D effort at Boehringer Ingelheim.
All that mixing and matching smacked of new models said a tablemate from Sanofi Aventisâ€”and that’s something every company is now looking for. While the power of the Scientists Without Borders database will depend on the commitment of its users, certainly the intention of the project, and the collaborative spirit of the kickoff, showcase a new path toward getting aid on the ground to the people who need it the most.