Crowdsourcing for cures
Name: Samir Brahmachari
Title: Director general
Organization: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (India)
The biophysicist Samir Brahmachari has gained scientific acclaim in India for advancing the country's genomics research, yet his greatest achievement could become what India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) calls the Open Source Drug Discovery initiative.
The brainchild of Brahmachari, the open source discovery project has united top biomedical researchers from around India and the globe to hunt for new treatments for infectious diseases. With an initial emphasis on discovering drugs against tuberculosis, which kills 400,000 people per year in India, the 4-year-old initiative features an online platform to facilitate collaboration among scientists and give them a menu of software tools to aid their research. The online infrastructure, Sysborg 2.0, has more than 5,700 participants in 130 countries.
A key of open source is to share information freely, something that biopharma companies aren't famous for doing. Yet, in the case of global epidemics such as tuberculosis and HIV, drugmakers have shown a willingness to join forces and even share resources. Brahmachari's vision for Open Source Drug Discovery has been to bring affordable healthcare to sick people, and the collaborative approach to discovery that he's championed could streamline the advance of new therapies to patients with the help of genomics and computer-based technologies.
In the spirit of open source and crowdsourcing, Brahmachari has brought together a bevy of collaborators and drug researchers to the project. AstraZeneca ($AZN) headlines the list of companies that have backed the effort, to which the government of India has promised $35 million, according to the OSDD's website. T.S. Balganesh, a former R&D executive for AZ in Bangalore, was tapped to head the open source discovery effort last year.