BioNexus KC, formerly Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, has a collaborative initiative meant to bring together stakeholders from various disciplines scientists, entrepreneurs, students, academics and moreto think about common life science issues. 

Collaborate2Cure is the unique platform that facilitates this life science collaboration. The ideas behind initiative came out of a 10-year plan formed in 2015 with the help of people in the academic, business and civic fields. Identifying areas within life science that were particularly important going forward was a priority throughout this process. Those areas identified were animal health, cancer research, information technology and neuroscience. 

Following, it was important to identify specific efforts that most successfully drive cluster enhancement, with life science being its own cluster. This conversation resulted in five main drivers for life sciences: collaboration, workforce development, communication, marketing and capital formation. 

BioNexus KC found that capital formation was a problem in the region, whereas collaboration has been a real strength in KC and the surrounding region. This gave involved parties the idea to use this collaboration to bolster and strengthen other crucial drivers of life sciences progress and problem solving. This led to forming a collaboration task forces made up of stakeholders working together to form strategies to leverage the region’s pre-existing collaboration. 

This collaboration taskforce came up with the following recommendations: 

  • A forum to address specific scientific problem/research areas. This would include people from diverse backgrounds (for example, various sciences, entrepreneurs, etc) to allow multiple perspectives on solutions
  • Inclusion of a technology component for those who couldn’t be “in the room,” which would also make the forums even more diverse, accessible and inclusive
  • Funding to facilitate the technology needed to make a successful virtual component 
  • Colloborate2Cure as an aspirational title 

In 2016, the planning and development of this collaborative platform was underway. BioNexus was sure to pick a high-quality video production system in order to broadcast and collect feedback on the forums in real time. In addition to logistics, planning was underway for the topic areas. They knew the topics would need to be interesting to a variety of professionals and have a specific, engaging champion. They settled on immunotherapy, with a champion from Children’s Mercy and 16 weeks worth of presentation and networking events set up. However, as presentation slots quickly filled up, the timeline expanded to six months to allow for even more collaboration. 

The second chosen topic was mitochondria. This was a topic particularly interesting to a broad array of researchers with champions from KCU and KU Medical Center. Presenters for the five month schedule of meetings included active researchers in the field. However, this session ran a bit differently than the first, with more moderating in order to make sure the presentations did not get so in-depth into research that they lost utility for the various disciplines represented. 

The next topic was quality basic healthcare, in collaboration with Quality and Value Innovation Consortium. In this session the forums switched from weekly to monthly to ease organizational planning burden. Out of this series, collaborators ultimately narrowed down to two value-based healthcare projects to move forward with. 

At the completion of each series, BioNexus made a Request for Proposals available to anyone who had formed a new collaborative project out of the forums. For example, two QVIC projects were funded out of the quality basic healthcare series. Another example of the many successful outcomes is a collaboration between animal and human health research on osteosarcoma. A clinical trial in dogs was found to have important significance, and to be a guide, for a clinical trial in humans. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaboration has continued. Because of Collaborate2Cure’s strong video-based component, the switch to entirely virtual was less daunting. In April, the newest series based around Autism Spectrum Disorder began. The two sessions completed so far have been met with high engagement, and collaborations are already underway. Moreover, attendance can be more widespread in this format. If you’re interested in attending or learning more, visit the Collaborate2Cure websiteKeith Gary, vice president of BioNexus KC, presented to KC Digital Drive’s Health Innovation Team on July 29, 2020.

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