GlaxoSmithKline has become the first large pharmaceutical giant to reveal the chemical structure of over 13,500 molecules which may be able to inhibit the effect of molecule. this is the first time that a pharmaceutical firm has taken such a step. Chemical structures of molecules are usually closely guarded as they form the basis of medicines and are under patent protection. But the company has itself not yet been able to successfully lower the cost and increase the effectiveness of malaria inhibiting compounds. It hopes that opening up drug research to the public might help.
Linux platform is a community developed system which has spawned a wide array of operating systems like Ubuntu, Fedora etc. The “Open Source” approach that Linux has utilized for its development involves sharing of the source code amongst various developers. The source code can be utilized by anyone to improve upon the existing system. Linux development has a large online community which can serve both as developers and beta testers in a non expensive way. This approach is specially useful when there is a large data set to experiment with just like the 13,500 customizable molecules.
The structure of the molecules will be made available on the CDD web service. Collaborative Drug Discovery Inc (CDD) is a facebook like social networking platform which allows scientists and researchers from around the globe to share their work. GSK has also made it clear that they wont be seeking any patents on any potential antimalarial drugs formed using these molecules. Clearly this is not a step taken lightly.
The majority of research by pharmaceutical firms concentrates on diseases like cancer and ignore others like Malaria. This is because most of the patients suffering from malaria are from the poor regions of the globe and hence the payoffs for firms are not large. As a result Malaria has been branded a ‘disease of the poor’. Hopefully this effort will result in a larger stress on such diseases.
PS: i think there will be patent issues if these molecules are used to develop drugs other than to combat malaria. GSK wont be so good-hearted in that case. The malaria drug wont result in any large payoffs but other developed drugs might. Lets see.