CureQuest is an educational game about Clinical Translational Therapeutics, the process of discovery and development of new medical therapies. The game is in ongoing development through a collaboration between the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the CondulTS Institute for Translational Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, CureQuest development is supported by the (CTSA) grant UL1TR001433 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and the National Institutes of Health, with the goal of raising awareness, promoting team science competency and advancing “bench to bedside” transdisciplinary collaboration.

The game is a mobile episodic application primarily aimed at iOS and Android devices, drawing players into a magical world where they must develop a cure for a mysterious new ailment. The first target audience will be second–third-year medical students, with the future goal of adapting the game to a broader population and, eventually, the public. The game is not a replacement for classroom learning but a compliment as an informal education experience, working alongside the curriculum at ISMMS. We are planning spring and summer focus groups of play-testers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“The development of educational games is a process of exploration and iteration, similar to the drug development process itself,” said Benjamin Chang, Professor of Arts and Director of Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who is partnering with Janice  Gabrilove, MD, FACP, Director, Clinical Research Education Program, and the Center for Patient-Oriented Research Education and Career Development (CePORTED) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai & Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Creating a sense of wonderment about the challenging process of drug discovery is no easy task. “CureQuest” rises to the challenge in videogame form. The development group, from diverse academic arenas, levels of training & disciplines (computer science, software engineer, creative writing, art, gaming, biostatistics, drug discovery, clinical trials, education, graphic design, and music), gathered around a large conference table to share domains of expertise, experience and exchange ideas. Their challenge was to develop a videogame that captured the imagination of medical students while raising the player’s awareness, insight, and appreciation for the complexities of drug discovery and development.  Learning to speak the same language and investing in each other’s talents, the team created a fun-to-play game that involves a world of magic, where a mysterious condition has affected the land, and it is your job to find a treatment through the discovery and development methods of translational biopharmaceutical research.

ConduITS funding was crucial to the initiation and development of this project and instrumental in facilitating this innovative cross-disciplinary collaboration.

This process of drug development can take ten to fifteen years and tens of millions of dollars, with numerous unsuccessful compounds for every successful drug. To make drug discovery work well, it requires collaboration and communication between multiple disciplines across both clinical practice of health care and basic science, as well as business, funding agencies, and regulatory processes. While the process is essential to modern medicine, and the full scope is not typically well understood within the medical professions, by basic researchers, or by the public. This gap is in part due to the specialized nature of medical training.  CureQuest aims to address this gap through game-based learning.