Business on the map

A view for collaboration

Managing a large group of scientists, jokes Milton Smith, can be like "herdidng cats". That's particularly so if the scientists whose work you're overseeing are based in medical schools and private- and public-sector labs scattered throughout the US and Canada. The organizations Smith is working with make up the Advanced Medical Countermeasures Consortium, a group developing a drug-delivery therapy to serve as a first-response stabilizer for people exposed to avian flu H5N1, anthrax or mustard gas. To organize and delegate the research that's being conducted, Smith and his partners use Mindjet's MindManager.

While research on the therapy has received some federal funding, thus far the consortium has had no backing from private drug companies. "By using universities, we had a low-cost method of doing research and development, but we had to manage a complex task involving many components," Smith says. Smith is a physician and president of Amaox Ltd, a biotech company established in the US in 1992 to study the therapeutic benefits of liposomes and that now acts as a bridge between government agencies and universities for the consortium effort. "The only way I could manage all these collaborators and the components they were working on was to use mind mapping," he says.

In addition to Amaox, collaborators working on the Stimal (signal transduction inhibition antioxidant liposomes) drug-delivery therapy include the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, AFG Biosolutions Inc and the medical schools of six US universities. The maps detail which institution is working on which aspect of the Stimal project, timelines for research, and results.

Using the maps to manage the aspects of the project related to mustard gas, for example, Smith and crew can simultaneously review the results of the one school's animal-tested inhalation model and another's in vitro tests on cells. Capturing results with MindManager, says Smith, lets his team review the tests from a high-level view and develop a systemic understanding of the problem.

"It's much easier for everyone to visually scan [efforts and results] rather than plow through long reports," Smith says. "Linear tools don't really capture relationships the way mapping does."

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