LEAPS project at MIT aims to pilot “learning ecosystem” for patient-centered biomedical innovation

Eric NormanLEAPS, News

Person jumping from microscope symbol to stethoscope symbol

New initiative aims to improve decision-making across biopharmaceutical development and delivery lifecycle


CAMBRIDGE, 23 July 2018—The NEWDIGS Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hosted a Design Lab for its new Learning Ecosystems Accelerator for Patient-Centered, Sustainable Innovation (LEAPS) Project. LEAPS aims to support value-driven biomedical innovation by improving decision-making across the spectrum of biomedical research and healthcare delivery.

LEAPS’s initial goal is to design a pilot project in a disease area of special importance in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in collaboration with public leaders and private innovation organizations. To that end, participants in the Design Lab were tasked with considering disease areas offering the prospect of significant healthcare impact and identifying early practical and technical challenges to the pilot project’s success.

NEWDIGS Design Labs convene a diverse sample of healthcare stakeholders, including clinicians, patient advocates, pharmaceutical developers, regulators, payers, scientists, and public sector leaders, who collaborate intensively for two days under the strict confidentiality guidelines of the Chatham House Rule. That confidentiality encourages candid, cross-stakeholder dialogue that is not practical in ordinary daily business.

“Truly patient-centered innovation can’t be done one silo at a time,” said Gigi Hirsch, Executive Director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation and Director of NEWDIGS. “Stakeholders have to work together in fundamentally different ways to enhance collective impact on patients.”

“What’s different about this is a ‘de-silo-fication’ of the discussion,” said one participant. “We need crosstalk among stakeholders to make [change] real, rather than one-off projects for this or that. We’re trying to shift the way evidence is conceived and considered across the stakeholder communities.”

Another participant, a physician, underscored the need for better information. “Evidence informs everything I do in the clinic. Every time I see a patient the name of the game is decision-making and having the best information to bring to bear on that is of huge importance.”

A pilot project in collaboration with public leaders at the state level has a twofold benefit. First, it will unite private and public organizations in an initiative for real-world impact, and second, since Massachusetts is home to a supercluster of leading biomedical innovators and care organizations, LEAPS lessons could influence innovation and care provision practices globally. “I hope we can leverage everything the people in this room have to offer,” said a regulator from the European Union. “If LEAPS engages the public side, which holds the data, and they endorse a pilot, together with industry and academia, it would be a major step forward.”

A patient advocate in the Design Labs sees the LEAPS project as an opportunity to design a system that connects today’s scientific advances with contemporary healthcare demands much better. “We don’t have a data ecosystem that can accelerate cures and improve health. LEAPS is an effort to take a step back and design what the data ecosystem should look like in the future and put the patients in the center. It can disrupt a very sequential approach to R&D and healthcare.”

Eric Norman
MIT Center for Biomedical innovation

MIT NEWDrug Development ParadIGmS(NEWDIGS) is an international “think and do tank” dedicated to delivering more value faster to patients, in ways that work for all stakeholders. NEWDIGS designs, evaluates, and initiates advancements that are too complex and cross-cutting to be addressed by a single organization or market sector. Its members include global leaders from patient advocacy, payer organizations, biopharmaceutical companies, regulatory agencies, clinical care, academic research, and investment firms. For more information, visit http://newdigs.mit.edu.