6797 Open Source Biomedical Research for the 21st Century

Saturday, February 18, 2012: 2:30 PM
Room 121 (VCC West Building)
Matthew Todd , The Synaptic Leap, Sydney, Australia
How do we solve tough problems? Often we will ask people around us for help. Our professional network is valuable. It is also limited. To access the most effective help, our work must be open, so that experts may identify themselves. This is open science, a concept we have been applying to two projects in tropical disease research. The first project concerns a neglected tropical disease, schistosomiasis, which currently affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The drug used to kill the relevant parasite, praziquantel was needed by the World Health Organization in an improved (enantiopure) form, without increasing the cost of the drug. This cost constraint was so severe that we abandoned traditional mechanisms of academic research, and carried out the project open source, where all data and ideas were freely available on the internet, and anyone could participate. The extensive contributions from scientists around the world, including many from industry, led us to an efficient preliminary solution to this problem faster than if we had conducted the research in a traditional way. We are continuing to use the open source mechanism to improve and change our synthetic route, including as part of a global educational project. We have since begun a project in open source drug discovery in collaboration with the Medicines for Malaria Venture. Beginning with compounds released into the public domain by GlaxoSmitKline in 2010, we are prosecuting a hit-to-lead campaign that is completely open and coordinated on the internet. Anyone can participate, and there will be no patents.