Why teamwork is the new black!

Greetings everybody,

Hope you have all had productive weeks and if not hopefully you had some fun then! This week I was combatting with a myriad of ideas on what should be this weeks post. That was until I came across a TED video, and then my mind was made up. In todays post I will show you why the biggest challenge of the 21st Century is getting scientists from across the world to engage in teamwork. 

Lets start this off by looking at the Ebola outbreak. As of January 2016 the ebola endemic that had started in 2014 was declared as 'ended'. Is it time to break out the confetti and set of the fireworks in order to celebrate good times? Or not? 

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I was searching through my TED app and I came across a video on 'How we'll fight the next deadly virus'. This video that only lasted 10 minutes and 27 seconds, helped me understand the solution to combating the worlds problems. It focuses on this remarkable team in Kenema led by Pardis Sabeti and she shared her story from the frontline of battling Ebola in Sierra Leone. I will attempt to summarise her amazing experience as much as I can with justice. 

When Ebola reached Sierra Leonne, the only place able to handle this disease was a hospital located in Kanema.

Pardis collected 99 blood samples taken from infected Ebola patients, and shipped them of to her team in Boston. They were able to then sequence the genomes (the entire genetic makeup of an organism) for all 99 blood samples. 

What they found was alarming. The ebola virus was not just being transmitted from human to human, but was also mutating along the way. But, what does this mean? 

Essentially, every diagnostic, every therapy and every vaccine generated in response to an outbreak is based of the viruses genome sequence. Therefore, each time it mutates, it puts any preventative strategy back to square one. This places a massive delay on response time, and a higher amount of pressure to reach the cure before it decides to mutate again. 

Not wanting to delay progress any further Pardis decided to go against the scientific status quo. She published her results directly onto the world wide web and tagged it with one message. HELP! 

All four corners of the world answered! Fellow scientists wanting to learn, to engage, to participate and were joined by some of the worlds A- Team viral trackers. Just like that, there was this buzzing, energetic and motivated virtual community and right at the epicentre of it all was a shared need to safeguard humanity. 

During the early stages of the epidemic, they published 106 Ebola patient clinical records online. Then went one step further to use these to make an Ebola diagnosing app! With a 100% accuracy this was crucial for health professionals in the field. However, she needed more records in order to increase the validity of the app, and put out a plea on the internet hoping those records would come. 

Those records, never came. That scientific community went from being a community to going back to being an individual. This lack of willingness to share data publicly, letting it be open and be readily accessible, places a large limitation on what we are capable of doing and when we are capable of doing this, as a cause of this key events will be missed. The death toll was 11, 315 making it the biggest Ebola outbreak on record, could teamwork have lowered that number? We will never know. 

Were we prepared for the Zika Virus?

In the case of Ebola, it is very clear that in the absence of global team effort that Ebola thrived, so have we learnt from that outbreak and prepared for the Zika virus?

I will let you guys decide, heres some information for you. Zika was first discovered around 70 years ago, and below is the timeline of the Zika outbreak so far!: 

April 2007: Outbreak in the Micronesias Yap Island

15th May 2015: First case of local transmission in Brazil

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By October 2015: 2,700 babies are born with microcephaly (link between the two is suspected but not established)

24th December 2015: Brazil officially declares a state of emergency in relation to the Zika virus

20th January 2016: Cases of microcephaly have now risen to 4,000

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26th January 2016: Brazil admits that they are losing the fight against the Aedes mosquito.

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28th January 2016: WHO release an official statement that the Zika virus is spreading 'explosively'.

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In September 2015, WHO made a statement, highlighting the significance of any and all relevant data and results when the world is going though a 'public health emergency' and that this was to become the 'global norm'. In despite of this statement, the scientific community came together and made the decision to make all data and results regarding the Zika virus free to access and readily available. This decision was made around the 10th February 2016. My question to you guys is, looking at the timeline, when would you have called for such action? 

Have no fear... Team Science is here!

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First of... what is Team Science? Short answer, it is the movement towards interdisciplinary research. This shift in research started in 1983 when Brown and his colleagues pushed for a new way of carrying out research. As such, this would oppose the classic disciplinary approach that modern universities are built on. 

Disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics and the countless number of other disciplines that fall in the realm of Science, really gained their popularity and power after the Second World War. Ever since then, the discipline have become more and more specialised. Just look at Botany; Organic chemistry; Biochemistry or Developmental Biology. 

It has worked so far I suppose, so why would we get scientists from different disciplines and put them in a team... together? In a nutshell. 21st Century Problems are - tricky. They fail to fall neatly into one discipline. Climate change alone cannot be solved by one branch of science, neither can, public health issues such as that seen in Ebola along with the ones yet to make a debut. And contrary to belief, (this may wound some peoples egos) one person is not equipped with all the knowledge and skills needed to solve our global problems. But thats ok! Because, together we can... and we will. 


OK lets round this up for you guys! We are facing a lot of challenges and it seems as though we are navigating through a lot of unchartered territories. I believe, there are a lot more surprises that mother nature has in store for us, whether it be the countless number of microbes lying in wait, or, perhaps the next danger could be bioterrorism. No idea. Little way of predicting what is to come.  
However, its not all bad news. Scientists have to start practicing the fine art of collaboration and teamwork, and with innovative technology, we will win these battles. And why? Because together we are a force to be reckoned with!

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That is Biobunch,
Over and out

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