Open source sizzles in biotech sphere

A decade ago, the biopharma industry was nowhere near as open as it is today to joining forces with outsiders to advance research and development. And several efforts in biomedicine have made progress recently with strategies and structures that borrow heavily from the open source movement in software development, IT World reports. 

The article notes several projects that use online tools to bring scientists and patients together to advance new treatments. For instance, Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria was created last year to unite scientists for research of drugs against malaria, which is among tropical diseases that garner less attention from Big Pharma than other ailments such as cancer.

Patients and so-called "citizen scientists" are collaborating on their own human studies instead of waiting around for pharma companies to lead human trials. DIYgenomics, according to IT World, has tapped Google software and other online tools to enable do-it-yourselfers to participate in studies of anti-aging remedies. (Editor's note: I'm not endorsing any of these studies, and I personally would consult my doctor before signing up for one.)

Big Pharma, which is struggling to boost R&D productivity amid a rash of expiring patients on top-selling drugs, has even started to show a willingness to support open source-like efforts in biomedicine. Takeda Pharmaceutical, Japan's largest drugmaker, revealed this month that the company is backing the Structural Genomics Consortium based at the universities of Oxford and Toronto, which seeks to uncover protein targets for new drugs and makes the findings freely available to the scientific community.

Takeda has also supported the CommonMind Consortium--involving NIH, Sage Bionetworks, and others in academia--which is dedicated to brain research that will be made publicly available. Takeda and Sanofi ($SNY) chief Chris Viehbacher have publicly stated that collaboration with outside groups, sometimes called open innovation, helps companies share risk when making drug R&D wagers.

- see the IT World article