Further to the previous posts on Folding@home and AllTrials, here's an interesting 12 minute video that shows how Open Source could speed prototype drug discovery to fight cancer.
The Open Source movement has very successfully provided most of the software behind the internet, as well as that driving much of our smart modern technology. The routers in our homes rely on Open Source software as do Apple devices, Android phones and tablets and Smart TVs. Most web servers, including the Amazon server used by Health Unlocked, use Open Source software.
The philosophy behind Open Source is to make software source code freely available for reuse, with a licence encouraging software developers to further share their improvements. This saves developers from having to re-invent the wheel and enables any sufficiently skilled and interested developer to verify software works as claimed and to suggest bug fixes for prompt correction.
Naturally, there have been attempts to use this very successful development model in other fields, including drug development. Jay Bradner, a researcher at Harvard and Dana Farber in Boston, gave an excellent example of this at his TEDxBoston talk on genomedicine in 2011:
"How does cancer know it's cancer? At Jay Bradner's lab, they found a molecule that might hold the answer, JQ1 -- and instead of patenting JQ1, they published their findings and mailed samples to 40 other labs to work on. An inspiring look at the open-source future of medical research.
In his lab, Jay Bradner works on a breakthrough approach for subverting cancer .. and he’s giving the secret away."
Other researchers have continued work on the JQ1 molecule and now have an extremely promising treatment (proven in mouse trials) to prevent heart failure.
Unfortunately, I can't see how Open Source could be used to actually bring a drug to the market, due to the very high costs involved, but perhaps the open sharing of knowledge will reduce the number of drugs that go to advanced trial phases before failing, and hence reduce the cost and time involved in delivering successful drugs?
I can highly recommend the TED site for a "wide range of presentations by the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)".
(Health Unlocked runs on the Linux operating system and uses the nginx webserver - both Open Source.)