In a call with St. Jude corporate partners recently, we discussed using data and artificial intelligence to solve problems, the rapid development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and the challenges posed by cyber threats. It was all in the context of how we can cooperate, to share knowledge and best practices, in a world changing so rapidly.
This idea of ‘open innovation’ as a progressive business model has grown in prominence during the pandemic. Crises have a way of spurring innovation.
But, from the start, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been built on a model of coming together and sharing information so someday we can defeat childhood cancer on a global scale.
For 60 years, you, our supporters, have walked hand-in-hand with us toward a day when no child dies in the dawn of life.
That road is long and so many challenges lie ahead. But through open innovation we can solve problems that seem unsolvable.
In 1962, when St. Jude first opened its doors, childhood cancer was one of those problems. Specifically, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer and the disease our founder, Danny Thomas, set our early sights on.
Only 4 percent of cases survived then. Ninety-six out of 100 kids died from this disease.
Can you imagine? Think of the parents of those kids. Think of the scientists and doctors tasked with easing their pain and giving them hope.
They did just that. Through collaboration and innovation — and a whole lot of determination thrown in — St. Jude was able to pronounce childhood leukemia curable within a decade of its opening.
And today? The survival rate for ALL at St. Jude is 94 percent.
More recently, we’ve brought people and organizations together to meet an urgent, humanitarian need. Perhaps not open innovation in the way most would define it, but it’s such a proud, meaningful moment for this organization. St. Jude Global helped coordinate with long-established partners around the world to undertake the SAFER Ukraine effort and move hundreds of childhood cancer patients and their families from a war zone to safety and a continuance of treatment throughout Europe and into the U.S. at St. Jude.
But we’re not stopping at Ukraine, or at a 94 percent survival rate. We can’t. Because we have the ability to treat and very often cure childhood cancer, we have the responsibility to do so — wherever we can. And we will, together.
Together, through an open sharing of information with partners around the world, we’re tackling the problem of childhood cancer globally where there are 400,000 new cases each year. In developing countries, the overall survival rate is less than 20 percent. That’s what it was in the U.S. in 1962.
Challenges are found in the vast disparities of resources available to countries around the world. What the Netherlands or Jordan might need is greatly different than what partners in Haiti or El Salvador, Moldova or Ukraine might need. There are cultural differences to consider. Different languages. So many moving parts. So much money required to make meaningful progress.
Solving the problem of childhood cancer on a global scale quickly becomes a task that looks impossible.
But that’s not how we think at St. Jude, and I know that’s not how you, our supporters, think either. You’ve put your faith and trust in the St. Jude mission. Families around the world have put their faith in our promise to them.
We have years of progress, compassion and fulfilled hope dating back to 1962.
And remember, back then people even told Danny his dream of treating kids of all races and ethnicities, all economic backgrounds — with families never receiving a bill from St. Jude — was impossible. They said it was a task that would break his heart.
And yet, here we are. Together. Cooperating, innovating, coming together because we know it’s the best way to save more lives and give hope to so many who desperately need it. You’re very much a part of that urgent collaboration, of this life-saving open innovation, and we could not be more grateful.