Home History and Philosophy We Do Things Differently

We Do Things Differently
Read in 17 min.
Listen in 21 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Mark Stevenson

We Do Things Differently

Who are the “outsiders” and what are they doing for the world?

There are people in this world who think differently, outside the box, and they take action in their own way, outside the system. Mark Stevenson has decided to go out and look for these “outsiders” and tell their stories in We Do Things Differently. This book offers us an overview of what is happening in the world with regards to innovation and challenging the status quo, presenting us with a series of enlightened and pragmatic people, who act, driven by a strong motivation to improve many different aspects of life. People who, instead of allowing themselves to be overcome by fear at the idea of a possible apocalypse, focus on the idea of a “new beginning”. 

We Do Things Differently
Read in 17 min.
Listen in 21 min.

An engineer’s approach can unveil the inconsistencies of medical research

Jamie Heywood is an engineer who was working in San Diego when, in 1998, his brother was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, (ALS). This is a progressive illness, which, in time, leads to paralysis of the voluntary muscles, until it reaches the respiratory apparatus.

Three days after the diagnosis, Jamie left his job in California to head back to Boston, where he was born, to set up at his parent’s home. From that moment on, his life was completely devoted to his brother; he founded a non-profit biotech organisation, with the sole aim of finding a cure for ALS disease. In just one year, he raised 400,000 dollars.

The money that he raised allowed him to rent and furnish premises for what is now the biggest ALS research and development laboratory in the world, with over 30 scientists working there.

Time was a defining factor for Jamie’s brother, so creating a new drug wasn’t going to be possible; the plan was to find already existing drugs that might prove effective in curing ALS.

In 2002, Jamie and his associates found out about an important study carried out at a university which showed that mice with a particular form of ALS lived longer when treated with a particular anti-inflammatory drug called Celebrex.

As an engineer, Jamie was used to testing a hypothesis many times to confirm it, so he decided to replicate the experiments carried out at the university, with disappointing results: the same percentage of the mice treated with the drug died as those that were not. They repeated the experiment three times to be sure, but the results were the same.

At that point, Jamie realised the bitter truth: that medical research is unreliable,  often misleading, and is subject to the pressure researchers are under (whether they realise it or not). These pressures are often financial, because if a researcher does not make any useful discoveries within a certain timeframe, they risk not being granted further funding to continue their research. This is why the results that both researchers and investors are hoping for are the ones that their studies often show.

Today, Jamie, an engineer from Boston with no professional qualifications in this field, is seen as one of the most important thinkers and visionaries in the medical field.

In 2006, ALS took the life of Jamie’s brother, but Jamie has no regrets, and is grateful to Stephen for giving him the opportunity to bring meaning to his life and for helping him to find the courage to challenge the rigidity of the system of medical research.

Among his many initiatives, Jamie created a website for sufferers of ALS, called PatientsLikeMe, where patients can share and exchange information, challenging the common platitude that patient privacy must be protected at all costs. Very often, sharing their information and experiences can save people’s lives. 


The key ideas of "We Do Things Differently"

An engineer’s approach can unveil the inconsistencies of medical research
Participatory Medicine: we know ourselves better than any doctor!
Growing rice with respect for the environment while obtaining the best possible yield
An engine that works using a plentiful resource: air
The Participatory Budget in Brazil as a tool for the democratisation of cities
Detroit is an example of a city that is being reborn thanks to urban agriculture
From the worst school to the best in England, simply by changing the approach to learning
Take-home message
4books preview

Try 4books Premium for free!