Collaboration without hesitation

Dr. Babak Kateb’s skill-set is “brain-mapping” but he believes key to progress is collaboration. Spotlight YOPD reporter Lisa V explains more…

Anyone who works in the brain-business will know of Neuroscientist Dr. Babak Kateb – Founding Chairman and CEO of the prestigious SBMT and Brain Mapping Foundation.

When Dr. Babak says something, I listen. Those running government agencies and wealthy corporate charities to support Parkinson’s should too, along with all those in the business of Neuroscience, whether research, application or innovation. Here’s why…

Dr. Babak says ‘collaboration’ is our problem. It’s not money, it’s not brains, it’s not for any other reason. This isn’t the first time by any means he’s said this; he even graced me with a comment or two on my posts about the same thing. Thank you, Doc! But, what does he mean?

He says (I’m paraphrasing): “We need a mind-change both in cultural and governmental thinking.”

It is long-held that competition is what brings out the best in us but If I’m a cancer researcher and you are, and we’re both working on the same problem separately and not sharing, we double up on the work and the expense. The rationale that government bodies like the NIH use in doling out their money is that diversity is healthy. It’s not; it’s costly and repetitive.

The biggest Orgs and Institutes do the same; because they want the victory. It’s sad to think that those charities have you in mind not solely to make you feel better, but to make themselves look better! Researchers are taught to hold their cards close to their chest or someone will steal their work. While it’s understandable that intellectual property be maintained, should it be to the point of unmet suffering? Dr. Babak has an answer for that and it’s down to basic book-keeping; credit (awards) are accredited where due, Nobel prizes etc. handed out to those whose work has been of highest merit. I would imaging he’d have the entire structure of how to work together in harmony expediently, respectfully and frugally so that the business of cure becomes the prize!

Ultimately, it’s not about secretive exclusion: only with collaboration that is open, accessible and centralised can our list of terrifying disease ever have any real hope of address. If you don’t know the entity of Dr Babak Kateb, he meets with Popes and Presidents, 4-star Generals and Governors, shoots the breeze with the likes of Stephen Hawking, and even talks to peons like me. That accessibility speaks volumes; he’s really only interested in one thing and it’s not an award, it’s integration.

You may think that’s what all institutions do. Far from it. In an electronic exchange, Dr Babak told me the top five reasons that prevent real progress in neuroscience:

1) Lack of collaboration.

2) Lack of incentives to share data and partnership.

3) The system of grant making is inadequate and by design is not encouraging unity in science (unhealthy competition) causing animosity between scientists and institutions.

4) The process of review at the NIH* is rigged with no transparency and oversight.

5) NIH spends 6.5 billion per year on neuroscience and has little to show (no new treatment for any neurological disorders, because the money is not spent wisely and targeted). *The National Institute of Health is the largest single public funder of biomedical research in the world.

Dr. Babak goal has always been to integrate all aspects of neuroscience disciplines; researcher to nanotechnology, cellular therapies to devices to imaging. Cross-pollinate everything in an open environment; work together. It can be a little soul-destroying, all this advocacy business. I prefer ‘activist’; as I see no reason to celebrate Parkinson’s. But watching Dr. Babak et al (because he doesn’t work alone) honouring Stephen Hawking with the Beacon of Courage and Dedication Award helps me put things in perspective. What he has to say is utterly fascinating. Business Rockstars: Dr Babak Kateb interview by Pat O’Brien. Our brains are made up of billions of entities that work together – why shouldn’t we? Most grateful, Dr. Babak.

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