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What is Open Source Pharma (and why should you care)?

What is Open Source Pharma (and why should you care)?

"Today, pharmaceutical development is the very epitome of a proprietary business. Research results are closely guarded, developments are immediately patented, and ingenious strategies are employed to extend that patent protection for sometimes decades after the original drug should have become generic. Yet at the same time, the great majority of actual innovation goes on in universities rather than at the big pharma’s, often funded by government and non-profit grants. When innovative new startups do pop up, they are soon purchased by the big pharmas, thereby reducing the diversity of innovation."

So says Andy Updegrove when introducing Open Source Pharma, which he considers holds great promise in "working towards saving the millions of lives a year that are lost either to so called “neglected diseases,” or because those stricken cannot possibly afford the price of the drugs that could provide a cure.

What’s a neglected disease? It’s one that as much as half the world’s population is at risk of dying from, but which nevertheless doesn’t present an attractive profit target for any of the major pharmaceutical companies."

Andy considers that Open Source Pharma may address other problems with the current proprietary drug development process:

* Many hundreds of promising discoveries that never go anywhere

* Many hundreds of existing drugs that can be highly efficacious for other disease conditions

* Multiple pharmas may be exploring the same drug possibilities at the same time

The last point fits in well with what All Trials is trying to achieve - having all clinical trial results published:

While drugs for diseases like malaria are obviously the primary priority target for Open Source Pharma, there's no reason why Open Source Pharma couldn't be used to develop new antibiotics or cancer drugs.

Andy's full and very interesting article can be found here:

The Open Source Pharma model hopes to build on the unprecedented success of Open Source Software. Until relatively recently, most of us relied on Closed/Proprietary software for our computing needs, with Microsoft providing an excellent example of a Closed/Proprietary software company. Windows programs are provided in what's called binary format - code that the microprocessor 'brain' in the PC can understand, but we can't. With Open Source, human readable source code used to create the binary programs must also be made available so it can be inspected to check what a program/app actually does. The source code can be freely modified and improved but on the basis that the improved source code should be freely available to anyone interested.

So how important is Open Source Software?

Facebook and Google built their companies using Open Source Software and it has been a key part of Amazon's success. Apple was the first major computer company to make Open Source development a key part of its ongoing software strategy. About 75% of web servers use Open Source software. Basically, you can do things much faster and get your products to the market quicker if you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Without Open Source Software you would not be able to access this HealthUnlocked community. Open Source Software can be found in your Android smart phone or any Apple product, WiFi routers and digital TVs.

Will Open Source Pharma match the success of Open Source Software? Only time will tell.


Photo: White Headed/Black Winged stilts effortlessly flying over a lake. Thanks as usual to Jay for identifying these birds.