If you were to land on Mars…

If you were to land on Mars and you had to start a program to bring affordable, timely, and safe drugs to patients, what would you do?

There are many challenges to working in a multi-disciplinary team. Last Friday, we held a workday in Baltimore to chart our progress and integration.

One of the exercises at our workday was inspired by the Albright Challenge: a purposefully ‘spontaneous’ 30-minute activity that sought not the correct answer to a complex question, per se– but to give people the space to use the skills and knowledge they already have.

It was to flatten the so-called ‘playing field’ as agents of our (otherwise) powerful disciplines and calculated methodologies.

It was to unleash our collective imagination and to ignite our passions in a state of suspended reality.

It was to be vulnerable in proposing our own ideas instead of criticizing those of others.

It was to work together as a team by attempting to resolve a shared problem.

Suffice to say, we had a few surprises. Our imagined Mars program focused, first and foremost, on prevention. We imagined a birth-to-death digital profiling scheme for each person, a scheme with real-time monitoring, computation, and evaluation. We discussed the possibility of testing drugs on “robots” or “prototypes” before testing them on humans to evaluate safety. We proposed “smart” personalized drugs that could adapt in vivo to accommodate for environmental, mental, and physical changes. We talked about the personal agency of research subjects and pondered over what would happen if only the people who had a disease had the power to develop a clinical trial. We toyed with the idea of eliminating regulation and directly linking patients and new formats of supply chains. Eventually, we found ourselves negotiating the difficult subjects of fairness and equality, rights and freedoms, checks and balances, incentives and responsibilities. As you can imagine, there was no right or wrong answer.

Gloria Steinem once said that without imagination, we lose the excitement of possibilities—“dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” This activity was the first time our team attempted to propose solutions to address issues in the CT system. Earth or Mars, we sure are trying to work together towards a common path.

Photo: A selfie from NASA’s Curiosity rover to the backdrop of the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on Mars.

Viva Dadwal and Felipe Feijoo