Events - 03.05.2017 - 00:00 

Brainstorming Disruption

"Leaders of tomorrow" come together to develop ideas with corporate leaders. As a precursor to the St. Gallen Symposium, the "Leaders of Tomorrow" programme involved bringing the semi-finalists of the Wings of Excellence essay competition and 200 students together with corporate leaders to develop disruptive marketplace ideas.

4. Mai 2017. The day’s programme culminated with an Auction for Ideas – where after workshopping and developing the best disruptive ideas that could have an impact in society. In this format, three ideas were chosen and were presented to a panel to four senior executives. After each five-minute pitch, the three finalists received critique, praise and questions on their idea.

The four executives were Sami Atiya (DE), President, Robotics and Motion division & Member of the Group Executive Committee, ABB Ltd, Paul Nunes (US), Managing Director, Accenture Research, Heike Bingmann (DE), EMG, Management & Organizational Development, ZF Group, and John R. Dacey (US), Group Chief Strategy Officer, Swiss Re.

The three finalists were Laura Niersbach (DE), Columbia University; Tamsin Nicholson (UK), University of Glasgow and Rishi Jaggernauth (US), New York University.

Laura Niersbach (DE) from Columbia University pitched here idea on how to disrupt democracy – in her concept was to take a Design Thinking approach to public policy. In her pitch she directly addressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hoping that she would get wind of her idea and implement it immediately.

In Niersbach’s view, Western liberal democracies are experiencing a crisis. As established politicians are increasingly failing to convince their voters of the continued value of open and inclusive societies, right-wing populism is on the rise.

One of the recurring explanations for this political phenomenon is a widening gap between political elites and citizens, who feel like their concerns are not being heard anymore. As a result, many people either protest by voting populist or by completely withdrawing from public policy. The latter is especially the case for younger citizens. This development is extremely worrisome for the future of Western democracies and thus has to be addressed by our political leaders.

What Niersbach wants to do is to disrupt our current political structure, by introducing an App that would close the gap between politicians and citizens and reviving our democracies, particularly by motivating the generations of tomorrow to engage in public policy.

An idea that helps millions of people

Next up was Tamsin Nicholson (UK) from the University of Glasgow. She pitched her idea that she believes would help millions. She hopes to break the status quo in less developed nations by incorporating conditioned placebo response into treatment plans to improve access to medicine in least developed countries.

Improving access to medicine is one of the greatest challenges in global medicine. Currently, 50% of the population in the least developed countries (LDC’s) in Africa and Asia do not have access to essential medication, contributing to the significantly lower (17.5 years less) life expectancy in LDC’s compared to developed countries. But there may be an answer to this problem.

Research has shown that some patients given an active medication for 4 days, followed by a placebo, will respond to the placebo as if it were the active drug for 48 hours. This is called the conditioned placebo response and if applied in global medicine, it could potentially reduce the cost and amount of active medication required by one third.

There are, however ethical implications to this approach: informed consent, treatment efficacy standards and others. However, research has shown that patient deception is not always necessary and that the conditioned placebo response could have equal efficacy to the standard treatment. Much research still needs to be done to clarify the potential of this approach, but the prospective benefits are high and the costs low. There is the potential to greatly improve access to life changing medication in LDC’s.

To wrap up the evening, Rishi Jaggernauth (US) from New York University introduced a cutting-edge medical breakthough: CRISPR-based antibiotics.

How to deal with antibiotic resistence

Using this medical breakthrough would in essence put an end to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is one of the defining challenges of the 21st Century. Despite growing urgency about this issue worldwide, the pace of drug development has not kept up with the need for innovative antibiotics. The recent discovery of a gene editing tool known as Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of bacterial infections and refortify our existing supply of antibiotics. By leveraging the power of gene editing, CRISPR offers a customized therapeutic approach that addresses the fundamental issue of genetic mutation that underlies the problem of antibiotic resistance. CRISPR can functionally delete the parts of the genome that cause antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria, rendering these bacterial species susceptible to existing antibiotics.

The genetic sequence targeted for deletion by the CRISPR construct can be changed to reflect the newest bacterial mutations, enabling existing antibiotics to maintain their effectiveness in the face of the continued evolution of these drug-resistant pathogens. CRISPR-based antibiotics have the potential to offer a personalized, targeted therapeutic approach for antibiotic resistance, strengthen our public healthcare infrastructure, and reduce healthcare expenditures worldwide. Although some challenges including drug delivery and safety concerns will need to be addressed, CRISPR-based antibiotics are a novel solution to the antibiotic resistance crisis that can dramatically improve the lives of millions worldwide.

Picture: Photocase / Marqs

Discover our special topics