Big Pharmas back open source drug discovery with money and molecules

Call it crowdsourcing for cures. Fed up with outdated models for finding new treatments that have missed the mark, drugmakers and other public health stakeholders have ignited open source efforts that involve networks of companies and scientists joining forces to discover drugs. And one of the pioneering efforts of this ilk in India is moving ahead with a mid-stage trial for a drug against tuberculosis.

India's Open Source Drug Discovery unit, which uses an online infrastructure to connect more than 5,500 scientists and others, revealed late last month with the Global Alliance on TB that the anti-tuberculosis molecule will be investigated in a Phase IIb trial in India, Forbes reported. And the open source group has two more TB molecules in advanced preclinical testing that could eventually enter trials and combat the infectious disease, which kills about 400,000 people annually in India.

Open source discovery isn't just for India, where the R&D infrastructure is less developed than in some Western countries. In fact, drugmakers are joining forces as part of networks or alliances to find remedies against serious diseases for which there are few effective treatments. For instance, it was revealed in January that 13 of the world's largest drugmakers--including Pfizer ($PFE) and Sanofi ($SNY)--would take part in an effort to ice 10 tropical diseases in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In such alliances, drugmakers contribute resources and drugs to attack diseases that plague poor countries lacking the money to pay for expensive new drugs. A key to the open source alliance in India has been IT, and the group supports a number of tools available online to research drugs. These dynamics could play into more discovery efforts as drugmakers search for more efficient ways to identify new treatments.

Ken Kaitin, director of Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, said it's only a matter of time before the network model taking hold in biopharma results in new medicines, according to Forbes.

- read the Forbes article

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