Last week it was reported in the New York Times that a breakthrough had been made in the research on Alzheimer’s disease. No cure or even an effective treatment had been discovered, yet something far more important in the long run, perhaps, had been found: when we share our tools and data openly with altruistic ambitions joined to a good-natured spirit of competition, we can actually make progress for humanity. The name of this collaboration: the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, aka ADNI.
There were those All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten books and then they fell by the wayside, sort of, leaving it up to our children or our friends and families’ children to remind us of those most basic of lessons that this Alzheimer’s research story has proven true. Maybe the child-like code monkeys among us always had an advantage, tinkering away with projects to be enjoyed and added to as needed by compatriots with neon green Mountain Dew to fuel the burning of the midnight oil. The key ideas for grown-ups to remember here are letting go of intellectual property notions and ego, much like your teacher or mama would have told you to share with the class or let someone else have a turn.
Even in light of today’s upsetting news about the amyloid drug by Eli Lilly and Company, there is hope. Not the kind that gets promised by snake oil profiteers, or for that matter, presidential candidates. Collaboration, rather than a market-driven focus on patents, will open the way to overdue discourse and effect change. Even the Forbes financial community is taking note of the voice of lone detractors now. Setbacks aside, this is the real deal: the beginning of new methodologies and cutting-edge research in the academic and scientific communities backed by major moolah and energy from passionate non-profit foundations as well as federal and private sources. One day soon this may translate into a cure for what ails us all.