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Synchronicity is Not Just an Album by The Police. Nor is Serendipity Just a John Cusack movie.


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the information transferring activities seen at conferences. Let’s bust the scientists out of their institutional silos and provide them a nice safe place to discuss whatever they wanted to. No lecture. No podium. No PowerPoint.

Along with WGHA members from SBRI, IDRI, ISB, and PATH, we designed the Global Health Dialogues. We sent out the initial invitations to anyone who worked at WGHA member organizations.. ‘Come and just talk.’ It didn’t matter whether they were graduate students, postdocs, senior scientists or CEOs. We welcomed them all.

And we had researchers at each of those levels in attendance. We hoped 25 people would sign up. More than 80 responded, which lead to the remarkable gathering in December.

Researchers sat around tables and shared their stories. The discussion at my table demonstrated the literal global reach of local researchers, with young scientists traveling to Delhi and Dubrovnik for conferences. I heard that the best therapies in the world will fail because we do not fully understand how to get people to properly use them. I observed the frustrations of having to deal with institutional inertia, both in the US and abroad. I listened to the excitement regarding new areas of research or of new pieces of equipment becoming available. I saw physicists talking with chemists about what biologists were doing to deal with sociological problems in Africa.

And this was at only one table.

A final point about serendipity and synchronicity. In October, while we were planning Global Health Dialogues, I attended an event that Xconomy organized about the 20-year outlook for biotech in Seattle. Stephen Friend, the founder and CEO of Sage BioNetworks, made an interesting observation about what Seattle lacks that other biotech hubs, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, possess. His one word answer, “Bars.”

After he gives a presentation there, everyone travels to a nearby spot to continue the discussion. People from other disciplines are there also. The random interchanges that take place can have huge impacts both inside and outside the lab. As Stephen said, “that’s really an important anchoring ingredient that we are missing, and should be happening.”

So, until Vulcan or somebody else can create the right bar—somewhere near Lake Union, with a really nice room for large groups to get together—the Global Health Dialogues will be available.

We are planning the next Global Health Dialogues for the end of February. We have a topic for discussion—the intersection of chronic infectious disease and cancer—for those that want some specific conversations, with lots of space for those who just want to talk. Registration will be open soon. Email info@wghalliance.org if you would like to participate.

It will again be a place to have a wonderful discussion with other researchers on almost any topic. I expect the dual team of synchronicity and serendipity will again make strong appearances.

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4 responses to “Synchronicity is Not Just an Album by The Police. Nor is Serendipity Just a John Cusack movie.”

  1. Interesting article. I thought you might like to read this post from our synchronicity blog on scientific synchronicities. – Rob MacGregor


  2. Krassen Dimitrov says:

    The Lisa Cohen you mention will be here (Brisbane) on Thursday. After reading your article I am signing for a breakfast with her. Thanks!

  3. Bill Neil says:


    Great stuff!f See you at the next ISB event.