Multidisciplinary collaboration in Drug Discovery - how to make a winning team?

Thomas Beke Posted 04 November 2019

Drug discovery is a crucial step in the development of new drugs. In this phase, potential targets are identified and validated and a vast number of molecules are screened after which possible lead candidates are identified and optimized. The result of the subsequent phases of drug development will be largely determined by the performance of drug discovery teams.

Bringing people together in a multidisciplinary team is challenging. On top of that - due to the unpredictable nature of drug discovery - team compositions are often modified to tackle new findings and emerging obstacles in the best possible way. Particularly for drug discovery teams it is therefore key to improve multidisciplinary collaboration.

Based on a field study of five projects in a leading pharmaceutical company - performed by Professor Zeynep Erden and her team -  some insights were identified that should make cross-disciplinary team coordination more effective:

  1. Balance formal and informal co-ordination

    The success of drug discovery teams depends on the ability to perform specific scientific and technical research in combination with continuous collaboration and alignment with other knowledge domains. One of the findings was that formal and informal co-ordination complement each other. Therefore, the right balance should be found between providing initial structures around project teams and giving flexibility to individual specialists and/or sub-teams to restructure themselves around interactions between scientists and internal interdependencies.

  2. Anticipate cross-disciplinary requirements

    Specialists should be constantly aware of the implications that their activities can have on the work of others. Scientists often aim for domain specific standards of excellence. But to move the drug forward in the pipeline, compromising is often needed so that the focus remains on answering a scientific question or issue rather than holding on to scientific excellence.

  3. Pay attention to synchronization of workflows

    Timelines and resources need to be aligned in a way that cross-disciplinary inputs and outputs are synchronized.

  4. Triangulate assumptions and findings across disciplines

    Never assume! Scientists should continuously scrutinize the findings and assumptions in their own work. To ensure that their output leads to useful input for others they should continuously liaise with other disciplines on the experimental set-up as well as triangulate their research. This also includes possible misunderstandings that may arise from domain specific terminology and criteria.

  5. Get the opinion of team outsiders
    Regular interactions with outsiders can also be a powerful driver for progress, as it can challenge sub-team members to rethink their thought process and avoids sticking to familiar approaches.

Ensuring enough flexibility to tackle issues or new questions as they arise can only be supported if the right balance is found between formal structures and informal co-ordination practices that lie at the basis of knowledge creation. It should be further explored which approaches could be used to improve co-ordination and if use of digital technology can enable drug discovery teams to become more agile and therefore speed up the innovation process.

Source: DDW (Drug Discovery World) 

At Modis we also believe that it is crucial to optimize the R&D process to stay competitive and ahead of the field. Collaboration and adopting new ways of working will therefore become more and more important. We can be your trusted third-party for bringing project management, consulting and business solutions to accelerate the development of innovative drugs in an efficient way.

Thomas BekeProject Manager Life SciencesTweet this

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