Harvard's Kraft Accelerator Joins Cancer Groups to Advance Precision Medicine

May 14, 2018
Harvard's Kraft Accelerator Joins Cancer Groups to Advance Precision Medicine
Five organizations focused on engaging cancer patients have joined with the Harvard Business School Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator to launch "Right Track," a pilot program designed to advance precision medicine across cancers. [© Monkey Business/Fotolia.com]

Five organizations focused on engaging cancer patients have joined with the Harvard Business School Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator to launch a pilot program designed to advance precision medicine across cancers.

The Accelerator said it has begun testing the “Right Track,” designed to assist cancer patients on their treatment journey by linking them with patient organizations. Five such organizations have joined with the Accelerator: LUNGevity Foundation, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

The Accelerator said it developed the Right Track based on market research it supported that identified consistent gaps in knowledge and actions among patients with five types of cancer. Filling those knowledge gaps is the aim of the program, which is intended to promote the sharing of best practices, engagement of patients, and cooperation among participating groups.

MMRF founder Kathy Giusti is a co-chair of the Accelerator along with Richard Hamermesh, senior fellow at Harvard Business School. Giusti and Hamermesh lead a group of health care and business leaders whose work entails developing a business framework intended to drive and disseminate solutions for advancing precision medicine.

That framework, according to the Accelerator, addresses four key elements or “workstreams” of precision medicine—Direct to patient, data and analytics, clinical trials, and venture and investment capital.

The direct to patient workstream is supported by marketing innovators from consumer-focused corporate giants that include Marriott International, Rent the Runway, Keurig Green Mountain, Reebok, Rue La La, and tech companies. The companies are assisting the five cancer organizations in creating the direct relationships with patients envisioned in precision medicine.

“By bringing together leading cancer organizations and some of the world’s top consumer companies that have built loyal customer followings, we can help close knowledge gaps and increase patient engagement across cancers,” Lori Marcus, chair of the Accelerator’s Direct to Patient workstream, said in a statement.

The Accelerator was established in 2016 with a $20 million endowment from the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation, named for the owner of the New England Patriots football team and his wife.

Since then, the Accelerator has brought together the five patient organizations and begun tacking challenges affecting precision medicine, based on the “Collective Impact” approach to promoting collaboration across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens, with the aim of achieving significant and lasting social change by tackling deeply entrenched and complex social problems.

“Convening these organizations that had always acted in isolation and never had worked together was no small feat,” Giusti and Hamermesh observed in an article they co-authored in Harvard Business Review last year.

They recalled how marketing executives from each organization committed to weekly calls and monthly face-to-face meetings that were led by the Accelerator. During these calls and meetings, they added, the executives agreed to adopt a common agenda and share patient engagement data and key suggestions for improvement.

“As the initiative got under way, everyone quickly realized the value of a patient engagement scorecard and agreed to track 13 metrics across the five organizations. For example, we measured the number of active patient or caregiver email addresses in each organization’s database,” Giusti and Hamermesh wrote. “We also quickly recognized the need to improve our competency in direct-to-patient communication. To this end, we set forth and executed a plan to adopt best practices from leading direct-to-consumer companies in the areas of customer acquisition and retention.

Giusti and Hamermesh concluded that while their collective efforts were still in early stages, they saw that establishing a shared culture and shared goals led to joint action: “We believe that implementing the direct-to-patient initiative using the Collective Impact approach will improve the organizations’ ability to boost patient engagement and increase their willingness to share data, ensuring that all patients benefit from the promise of precision medicine innovations.”