Why Collaboration Is Critically Important to Propelling Focused Ultrasound Forward – And What the Foundation Is Doing About It

Written by Neal F. Kassell, MD

But how did we get here? Or more importantly, how do we continue advancing the field, at perhaps a newly accelerated pace, to ensure widespread clinical adoption of focused ultrasound in the shortest time possible? The answer to this is clear: The key to the field’s growth will be the ability of its members – clinicians, scientists, manufacturers, regulators, research institutions, philanthropic foundations, venture capitalists, insurance companies, patients, the Foundation, and others – to work together. Our collective commitment to collaboration in the months and years ahead will be vital to focused ultrasound’s success, and yes, perhaps even the antidote to its failure.

Why collaborate? The reasons we are so passionate about fostering collaboration within the field are many. For one, collaboration is the way to rapidly achieve critical mass of knowledge, effort, and results. It fuels progress. It allows for the sharing of experience, information, and ideas. It enables us to coordinate activities and avoid duplication of effort. Collaboration is also the primary turbocharger for stimulating innovation, and is the ultimate force multiplier for intellectual capital. Simply put, when we collaborate, rapid acceleration throughout the field is expected.

But collaboration doesn’t exist in and of itself. It can be likened to marriage or democracy – easy to say, and in theory it works well for some, but to sustain either takes a lot of effort and is difficult to achieve. Here at the Foundation we are therefore intentional about following this model in all that we do: We start by fostering Communication among stakeholders, and as time goes on we can then achieve Cooperation, which in turn leads to Collaboration, which then ultimately accelerates (a healthy balance between collaboration and) Competition – which is of course the lifeblood of the American market-driven, free enterprise system.

We’re all aware that collaboration is not necessarily a natural state, in particular within the biomedical research field. Those in the medical device arena tend to operate within “silos of secrecy” – we’ll call them “cylinders of excellence” – so the Foundation engages in a variety of specific activities aimed at breaking down those silos:

1. Stakeholder engagement: We develop personal relationships based on our reputation as being a trusted, independent, and unbiased third party, enabling us to play the role of global connector among stakeholders;
2. Open source database: We encourage widespread accessibility of important data among clinical and research sites, and manufacturers, in particular regarding the studies and projects that we fund;
3. Meetings/symposia/workshops: We regularly sponsor rich networking opportunities aimed at driving innovation, solving problems, and overcoming barriers within the field; and
4. Working groups/communities: We establish groups with shared interests within the field to develop application-specific work plans, collectively advocate for common goals, and advance the field towards clinical adoption.

We have long recognized that the Foundation has the unique ability (and increasingly so, it seems) to serve as the catalyst for focused ultrasound’s progress and an incubator to foster collaboration. We take this opportunity very seriously. We are open to suggestions on how else we can help achieve our shared goals faster, so that all will benefit from this culture of collaboration. As always, our priority remains expanding patient access to this exciting new therapy as soon as possible – saving time, saving lives – and we need your help to do so. Join us.

Additional Resources
Collaboration: Commercialization in the Evolving Focused Ultrasound Landscape – Blog by Emily White, MD, Director of Operations
Neurosurgeon Dr. Neal F. Kassell Discusses Health Tech and Advising on John Grisham’s Book
Collaboration: Fueling a Changing Focused Ultrasound Landscape – Blog by Jessica Foley, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

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Neal F. Kassell, MD, is the founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.