Capitalizing on convergence for health care

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Science  24 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6293, pp. 1522-1523
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2350

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For decades, scientists have called for more collaboration between the life and physical sciences, and in the past 5 years, we have been among those calling for a new national research strategy—one we call “convergence”—that would integrate engineering, physical, computational, and mathematical sciences with biomedical science (1). Thanks to the accelerating pace of biological discovery, the expanding power of computation, and a new focus in engineering on biocompatible materials and nanotechnology, the potential of such a strategy for advances in health care is greater than ever (see the photo). Technologies emerging from such efforts have potential implications far beyond health care: creating jobs; speeding products to market; and improving everything from agriculture and the environment to defense, the economy, and energy production. It all adds up to a moment of unprecedented opportunity, if we choose to invest in it meaningfully. But so far we have not. We detail below, and in greater depth in a new report with colleagues from across the country (2), the stakes in the convergence revolution and what we should do to capitalize on it.