Published: 2019-09-26 15:38 | Updated: 2019-09-27 09:53

25 years of collaboration between KI and Mayo Clinic

Four flags: the Swedish, The United States, Maoy Clinic and also Karolinska Institutet.

The partnership between KI and the Mayo Clinic in the US is celebrating its 25th year. Since inception, the collaboration has supported a great many successful research projects and innovations. Sophie Erhardt has recently been appointed as KI’s academic coordinator for the collaborative platform.

“The platform is important because it involves research, education, innovation and administration,” says Sophie Erhardt, Professor of Experimental Psychiatry at Karolinska Institutet. “It enables us to advance creativity and development, and then to commercialise the results into products that benefit the patients.”

A thorough evaluation of the partnership carried out in 2017 showed just how valuable it is, in terms not only of successful research projects but also of education, innovation and administration in a great many fields, such as cancer, psychiatry, diabetes and nursing.

"Important to note is that the number of jointly published KI-Mayo papers has risen markedly, and that these articles, on average, have a much greater impact factor than those from KI or Mayo alone,” she continues. 

This year's conference emphasizes innovation

A major conference, the Mayo-KI Annual Scientific Research Meeting, is arranged every year, alternating between Stockholm and Rochester, USA. It has been attended by over 1,700 people since 2012. This year, the meeting was held in Stockholm and one of the highlighted focuses was innovation. 

“The symposium Digital innovations in healthcare showcased a selection of innovations that have led to enterprises operating at both the Mayo Clinic and KI,” she says. “The goal for every medical researcher must be for their research to eventually benefit patients and come to practical use, and this is where the innovation work comes in.”

 In 2012 a joint grant programme was initiated to stimulate the partnership, offering annual travel and project grants. To date, some 85 travel grants and 50 project grants have been awarded, and a handful of grants for administrative cooperation. One of the first recipients was Sophie Erhardt, who received a grant in 2013 to travel to the Mayo Clinic to embark on a collaboration on mental health research.

“Thanks to initiative, I found people on Mayo Clinic with shared interest to partner up with. It also became clear to me that there was a sense of mutual respect here, as we share the same values and goals.” 

Important to involve juniors

One of the most important tasks she sees as KI’s academic coordinator is to involve doctoral students, postdocs and junior researchers more. 

“After all, they’re the ones who do the actual work during the exchanges, which can last for months, sometimes years. The knowledge and skills they bring home is potentially of great importance to Sweden.”

Another important part of the post is to secure permanent financing for the partnership, something of which KI President Ole Petter Ottersen has high hopes: “There are good prospects of the collaboration receiving more permanent funding, hopefully through joint fundraising acitivities,” he says. “The partnership gives us a five-star international partner in the USA, an excellent example of how education, research and healthcare can be integrated, combined with a major innovation drive.”

$50,000 for a new platform

This year’s conference ended with an award ceremony. The “Transform the Collaboration Pitch Competition” was announced ahead of the event in the hope of sifting out new, ideally unexpected forms of collaboration for the future. Four teams pitched their ideas on stage in a bid to clinch the $50,000 prize money. The winning entry was ”The KI-Mayo Collaborative Incubator: Structuring For Meaningful Community Engagement”.

The team behind the idea hope to create a virtual platform that can keep the partnership alive during the annual meetings. Amongst other things, the platform is intended as a contact interface for new projects and an experience bank of previous successes. It will also give those unable to travel an chance to participate in the meetings.

“I’m overwhelmed that so many people liked our idea,” says Teresa Sörö, strategic pedagogical developer at the Teaching and Learning Unit. “We hope that the platform will be a place where good climates from the meetings continue to thrive throughout the year.”

The team, which comprises Andrew Maunder (KI), Alexandra Greenberg-Worisek (Mayo Clinic), Elissa Hall (Mayo Clinic), Justin Kreuter (Mayo Clinic) and Teresa Sörö (KI), will now be producing a first project plan with a report due in a year’s time.

“We’ll make sure to bring on board the knowledge and experience possessed by those who’ve been involved in the collaboration over the years,” says Sörö. “A tough nut to crack will then be creating a technical solution that is simple, safe and user-friendly.”