MIT’s new Pandemic Response CoLab  — a joint project of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) , the MIT Community Biotechnology Initiative (CBI)  at the MIT Media Lab, and MilliporeSigma , as a founding member — is designed to bring together innovators from across the globe to work on solving problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By leveraging an open online collaboration platform, the Pandemic Response CoLab aims to mobilize individuals, businesses, communities and other groups to develop actionable solutions to pandemic-related problems. Any individuals or groups who want to participate are invited to contribute to solving the challenges already posted or to suggest other pressing issues related to COVID-19.

The Pandemic Response CoLab aims to mobilize individuals, businesses, communities and other groups to develop actionable solutions to pandemic-related problems. (Credit: Pandemic Response CoLab)

“There are many people around the world who see problems posed by the pandemic and have smart, innovative ideas that could help solve those problems, but they lack the means of sharing and developing their ideas,” says Thomas Malone, the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and founding director of the CCI. “An online platform like this allows us to create a community to harness the collective intelligence of these people, to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and find the needed people, funding, and other resources to implement these solutions.”

David Sun Kong, PhD, director of the MIT Community Biotechnology Initiative, believes that diversity found in global networks can play a critical role in enhancing innovation. He says, “We are facing a global, systemic challenge that requires global, systemic solutions. So many of the problems we face around the world are common, be it how to better communicate science, encourage life-saving behaviors, build trust amongst stakeholders, or develop and deploy the critically needed diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. Disruptive solutions are more likely to be found when we bring together a diversity of global perspectives.”

Launched in 2006, the CCI explores how people and computers can be connected so that — collectively — they act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer has ever done before. This first-of-its-kind research effort draws on the strengths of many diverse organizations across the Institute including MIT’s Media Lab, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and the MIT Sloan School of Management. The Pandemic Response Lab builds on a decade of work on CCI’s Climate CoLab, a platform where more than 120,000 people are working together to develop novel ideas to address climate change.

The CBI works at the intersection of open-source, accessible tool development, community organizing and movement building, and collective intelligence and social sciences to activate the global movement around grassroots, community-driven life sciences, or “Community Bio.”

MilliporeSigma’s mission is to help solve the toughest problems in life science by collaborating with the global scientific community, accelerating access to better health. The Life Science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operates as MilliporeSigma in the United States and Canada.

“There is a tremendous need for a common set of scientific facts about the virus and reliable, verified data,” says Udit Batra, CEO of MilliporeSigma. “We are aiming to establish a common baseline of agreed priorities upon which we can engage the wider scientific and innovation community to continue to build collaborative solutions to pandemics like this one.”