|Title||Mobilizing Collective Intelligence in Basic Science at the World Science Summit is Key to Conquering Diseases|
|Department||Department of Communications||Registration Date||2015-09-06||Hits||2789|
Mobilizing Collective Intelligence in Basic Science at the World Science Summit is Key to Conquering Diseases
Segye Ilbo (September 6, 2015)
Recently, the World Bank has reported that the estimated financial damages caused by the recent outbreak of Ebola would reach $800 million by 2015. Many lives and resources were lost because the world failed to properly respond to the virus in the initial stages of its outbreak and the projection for possible routes of the virus transmission was not accurate. Defeating infectious diseases like Ebola which have long plagued humanity will change our lives dramatically.
In many respects, basic research holds the key in our fight against these diseases. Its potential is not limited to bioscience or medicine whose main interest lies in the mechanisms of life. In the book titled “Mathematical Moments”, the American Mathematical Society compiled the contributions that mathematics has made to the progress of civilization. Mathematics can be applied to various areas ranging from modeling minute genes and proteins to tracking the transmission of an epidemic across a country. In May, Korea was hit hard by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS. After infecting patient zero, it spread rapidly through human contact to a large number of people. Mathematical models and simulation are useful to track such transmission and can help contain an epidemic because they help classify patients into groups such as the susceptible, infected and recovered to map the spreading routes of diseases. Scientists at the Institute for Basic Science, where I am the president, even attempt to apply nanoscience to find cures for diseases.
According to a recent report from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, only 4% of the world’s 7 billion people are free from health-related problems. This figure is the result of analyzing data collected for 23 years beginning in 1990 from 188 countries regarding 301 diseases. More strikingly, a third of the global population has no less than 5 health problems. We are all vulnerable to diseases, so the global scientific community is striving to improve the quality of our lives by finding new ways to eliminate deadly diseases. The National Institutes of Health in the U.S. spends approximately 10% of its almost $33 billion annual budget on research to combat HIV and new pathogens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control allocates approximately $6.6 billion for infectious disease control. Private organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation operate in the spirit of helping everybody on the globe stay fit by supporting research on diseases. Large-scale institutes are launched in many advanced countries for basic research that may contribute to conquering diseases.
Until recently, R&D activities in Korea mainly focused on national economic growth. Our main strategy was that of being the “fast-follower” by benchmarking others and seeking maximum economic benefits. Now that Korea aims to become one of the leading countries in the world, it is time that we took the initiative to tackle global issues.
The 2015 World Science Summit, the largest event for science and technology in the world, will take place in Daejeon, Korea in October under the theme of “Creating our common future through science, technology and innovation”. After the OECD accepted an invitation from the Korean government, the summit will be held somewhere other than its headquarter city of Paris, a first in its 52 year history. Leaders at the summit will discuss ways for the global scientific community to cooperate and achieve its common goals. In particular, they will discuss how to utilize scientific research for the prevention and treatment of diseases. I hope this summit will be an opportunity for Korea to put itself at the forefront of the fight against diseases and solidify its standing as a global leader contributing to human prosperity.