Drug development in the sharing economy

Submitted by Carlyn Zwarenstein on June 23, 2014 - 13:55

Sharing—what a concept. With scientific research tending in two directions—on one hand, towards more proprietary knowledge and more expensive and limited access, and on the other, towards open data and open access publications—it is interesting to note a new private-public partnership based in Toronto and New York that will provide completely open access to anyone who wants to use its structural genomics data. Is this what real sharing of information should look like?

Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) is a private-public partnership (including nine big pharmaceutical companies and many, many universities) that aims to boost discovery of new drugs targeting neglected areas of the human genome. The organization has a mandate to follow an open access approach to research. They’ve partnered with CHDI Foundation—a non-profit also focused on new drug development, but specifically to slow the progression of Huntington’s Disease. Together, the organizations will seek out new drug targets for Huntingon’s, but have explicitly agreed not to file patents on any research findings from their collaboration. They also pledge to make all “reagants and knowledge” (that’s a quote from their press release) available to anyone to use.

The president of CHDI Management, Robi Blumenstein, describes their approach as trying to expand the “pre-competitive” domain (obviously, a competitive market for new drugs is still envisioned at a later stage) by making any findings about the underlying biology of the disease be known to and useable by anyone. Interesting stuff, and another sign that scientific researchers are actively seeking ways to enter the vibrant, largely unproven, and very much evolving “sharing economy”.


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