Catalyzing Scientific Innovation with Design Thinking

Posted on January 16th, 2019

By Peter Santa Maria, Associate Director of SPARK Stanford


At SPARK tonight we heard from Dr Reiko Yajima about how Design Thinking can be applied to Drug Discovery. How do we solve complex diseases with multiple genetic, environmental and biological factors? Conceptual collisions are important in discovery research. We need to take known ideas from different disciplines and combine them in novel ways. Our most impactful science is being done in teams and not by individuals.


Bringing the human context earlier into the drug discovery process allows us to start with the end in mind. By expanding the problem to include more experts than you think you need allows the problem to be approached from different and multiple angles. A complex view of a difficult problem is required before settling on a target. It’s tempting to go into “solution fixing” with drug discovery but this limits our view of the problem and therefore our potential treatments.


Early on the team needs to cue into individual motivations and interests rather than scientific progress to make sure that the long term goal of a new treatment is met. Continually bring in different experts to your team to give different points of view.


Read more on Dr. Yajima’s work here