6:15 am: a day in the life. Our Johns Hopkins team hosted me for a workday at the Systems Institute. Like so many teams whose members work from multiple locations, we have developed a routine to sustain our everyday collaborative work through long-distance communication, virtual group discussions, document sharing platforms, etc. I am all for virtuality, particularly when our team members work from four different cities. But, sometimes, there is no good substitute for face to face interaction to move a project forward.

My day in Baltimore included individual and group meetings. This is a good way to alternate zooming in to specific project areas, and zooming back out to keep testing the larger strategic principles.

9:30 am: new perspectives for our clinical trials map. I met with Gary Lin to discuss his previous and present mapping work and talk about other possible directions that his research may take regarding the challenge of mapping clinical trials. We talked about data collection, the currency in clinical trials, and brainstormed to find ways of mapping the flows of data in the different stages of the process.

11:15 am: the “follow the money” session. Sauleh Siddiqui and Felipe Feijoo have been working on understanding the financials of the biggest 12 pharmaceutical companies in regards to the development of new drugs. They had a presentation that raised interesting questions about the visible and hidden costs of drug development, production and commercialization, on a global scale.

This research direction that we call “follow the money,” has been one of the early priorities in this project and it is good to see how it is unfolding and connecting with other areas of research pursued by other members of the team. Tak Igusa and Gary Lin joined us after the presentation and the discussion slowly turned toward intellectual property, royalty acquisition, and disruptive ways of financing clinical trials.

1:00 pm: data flows in clinical trials. In a lunch meeting with Jen Bernstein, we discussed our upcoming field trips to two clinical trial sites from the point of view of my interest in ”following the data.” I wanted to tap into her first-hand expertise in clinical trials to develop a “sense of data” that would help me understand what we will see during our field visits. The invisibility of data and the multiple forms data takes in the context of clinical trials, makes it a challenging thing to follow and understand, both on-site and off-site.

2:15 pm: risk and the site initiation process. I connected with Mehdi Jalalpour, in Cleveland, to discuss his risk and process mapping efforts. The quantitative model he is currently developing about risk in clinical trials needs data that is not easy to find, according to Mehdi. We discussed potential ways around this barrier, as well as his parallel project of diagramming how a non-NIH site is activated for clinical trials.

2:50 pm: global clinical trials revisited. Viva Dadwal arrived from Canada just on time for our meeting about the work that she and Francisco del Canto have been doing about the global dimension of clinical trials. They have developed quite an expertise on this matter, and we talked about finding ways to “make knowledge useful” and plug it into the research work that other team members are doing. You know that a project is really moving forward when abstract knowledge becomes useful knowledge.

3:30 pm: biosimulation and in-silico modeling. Paul Locke and Tak Igusa joined me in a conference call with Dr. Hugo Geerts, in Philadelphia, to discuss his work on running virtual patient trials using quantitative systems pharmacology, in the area of central nervous system (CNS) diseases. Dr. Geerts’s work in this area has great potential to complement the work that Paul Locke is doing in our group.

4:15 pm: field work and ethnographic techniques. Last, but not least, I met with Danielle Wood and Francisco del Canto to share notes, techniques and expertise on ethnographic and other quantitative and qualitative approaches to field data collection, in preparation for our upcoming visits to clinical trial sites in mid-June.

9:15 pm: a “consistent” delay. My flight out of Baltimore-Washington International was delayed 45 minutes, the same amount of time allocated to the meetings I had through the day. A mere coincidence? A mysterious manifestation of our systems approach? It’s all in the details…

Enrique Martinez