Using games to crowdsource new medicine
Crowdsourcing in healthcare is growing at quite a pace, whether that’s using the crowd to hunt for research ideas, or tapping into their insight for second opinions on medical diagnosis. There is also growing evidence that pharmaceutical companies are collaborating in response to the rising costs involved in drug development.
NanoDoc are taking a slightly different approach. They’ve produced an online game that lets Joe Public play a part in the design of new nanoparticle strategies, which will in turn be used in the fight against cancer.
The game originates from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and will see players given various challenges to solve. Interestingly, it is generally not known whether there are solutions to these challenges, much less what the best ones are, so this is really virgin territory. The strategies devised by the game players will therefore form the first step of any experiments in the lab.
If it all sounds complicated, don’t worry. Before you get started, you’re given a training session that introduces you to the basic concepts of nanomedicine, and of course how the game will be used. You’re then invited to create new nanoparticiles, with the best going on to be validated in vitro tissue-on-a-chip constructs that we have designed to emulate the extravasation of functionalized nanoparticles from artificial vessels into a compartment containing tumor cells and 2) robotic swarm systems (kilobots) in collaboration with Radhika Nagpal’s lab from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.
You can get an intro to the concept via the video below, or get started playing the game here.