The Concept of Open Source Pharma
The Concept of Open Source Pharma In the contemporary world the pharmaceutical industry is driven by proprietorship. Secrecy regarding medical research is the first obvious aspect of it. Developments in medical research are immediately patented and various novel strategies are used to extend those developments under patent protection over years, sometimes decades.
On the other hand, most of the medical developments happen in universities, their research is funded by the government and non-profit grants. Whenever such developments and innovations happen outside the pharmaceutical industry, the companies often buy these inventions and thus reduce the diversity of innovation.
The foremost reason for all this is the cost involved in medical research and the low success rate in it. Years of research often does not lead to promising results. Therefore, big Pharmacies search incessantly for the next big invention and are generally disinclined to give up their exclusive right over a drug until all options are exhausted.
On the other side, a large number of promising breakthroughs in the field of medicine go nowhere for various reasons. It can be that a startup that comes up with some promising research is taken over by a big pharmaceutical company that is not interested in taking it forward. Alternatively, a change of company strategy or staff reorganization shelves the project. When this happens, such developments do not see the light of the day. PRODUCT LIABILITY 2019
There are other adverse effects of such propriety practices. A number of pharmaceutical companies may be involved in the same kind of research at the same time. Worse than this, a company may have already found out that a line of inquiry is futile, while other companies are still involved in it. In addition, the scenario of not publishing the research until the patent is filed and the drug introduced delays further medical development on the same line by other researchers by decades. Thus, the benefit of medical breakthroughs does not accrue to the larger medical fraternity before a long period has passed.
Open source pharma is the means to tide over these issues. The fundamental principle behind open source pharma is the transparency of data and results, at the earliest, especially in cases where the public funds are used for such research.
The concept of open source pharma also incorporates the methodology of open source development involving a culture of openness, crowdsourcing and data sharing. This can go a long way in stimulating faster medical progress. It can also greatly reduce the cost of medical research and thereby provide affordable medicine by not only providing a way forward but also preventing waste of time and money in the line of inquiring that has been discovered as a dead end.
The operating principles behind open source pharma are:
- Employ radical openness, sharing, and transparency.
- Leverage the global brainpower of the crowd.
- Adopt open and innovative approaches to the management of intellectual property and financing.
- Create monetary and non-monetary reward systems for research and development that are alternatives to the prevailing proprietary model.
- Support open access to papers, data, and other research outputs.
- Convene and mobilize thought, opinion, and community leadership in reshaping research and development.
- Combine small, nimble, cost-effective facilitating structures able to harness the power of individuals and entities.
- Deliver affordable products.
- Place patients and their interests at the centre of the research and development model and the pharmaceutical system.
- Develop a portfolio focused on critical gaps in global health where traditional market approaches are failing, e.g., anti-infectives.
Democratization of information by sharing it globally in an environment not governed by patents is the chief attraction of open source pharma. Such ideas may sound radical before one realizes that it is already operational in other fields. Concepts such as copy-left and open source software have already revolutionized many fields. Open source pharma has a similar potential vis-à-vis pharmaceutical research.