Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) initiative for the tropical diseases by CSIR and cancer by GlaxoSmithKline deserves a big applaud and support from all concerned.

As the name suggest the ‘Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD)’ is an open source code model of discovering a New Chemical Entity (NCE) or a New Molecular Entity (NME). In this model all data generated related to the discovery research will be available in the open for collaborative research inputs. The licensing arrangement of OSDD where both invention and copyrights will be involved, are quite different from any ‘Open Source’ license for a software development.

In OSDD, the key component is the supportive pathway of its information network, which is driven by three key parameters of open development, open access and open source.

The Objectives of OSDD:

The key objective of OSDD is to encourage drug discovery initiatives, especially for the neglected diseases of the world to make these drugs affordable to the marginalized people, especially of the developing world.

International initiative:

In June 2008, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced in Philadelphia, “It was donating an important slice of its research on cancer cells to the cancer research community to boost the collaborative battle against this disease.”

With this announcement genomic profiling data for over 300 sets of cancer cell lines was released by GSK to the National Cancer Institute’s bioinformatics grid. It has been reported that around 1000 researchers actively contribute to this grid from across the industry, research institutes, academia and NGOs.

Many believe that the OSDD initiative will gain momentum to encourage many more academic institutions, researchers and even smaller companies to add speed to the drug discovery process and at the same time make the NCEs/NMEs coming through such process much less expensive and affordable to a large section of the society.

On an average it takes about 8 to 10 years to bring an NCE/NME to market with a cost of around U.S$ 1.7 billion.

OSDD in India:

In India, Dr. Samir Brahmachari, the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is the champion of the OSDD movement. CSIR believes that for a developing country like India, OSDD will help the common man to meet his unmet medical needs in the areas of neglected tropical diseases.

OSDD in India is a global platform to address the neglected tropical diseases like, tuberculosis, malaria, leishmaniasis by the best research brains of the world, together.

To fund the OSDD initiative of the CSIR the Government of India has allocated around U.S $40 million and an equivalent amount of funding would be raised from international agencies and philanthropists.

It has been reported that current priority of CSIR in its OSDD program is the tuberculosis disease area.

Why tuberculosis?

The published reports indicate, in every 1.5 minutes one person in India dies of tuberculosis and about 33 percent of the global population is infected primarily with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The world is still quite far from having an effective vaccine or drug, which can offer long term protection against this dreaded disease.

Partnerships of Industry with belief in Open Source systems and models with CSIR in its OSDD project for tuberculosis, could help finding out a suitable answer to this long standing problem, sooner than later.

Success of OSDD initiative of CSIR:

Late November 2009, I received a communication from the CSIR informing that their OSDD project, since its launch in September 2009, has crossed 2000 registered users. The pace of increase in the number of registered users indeed reflects the confidence this initiative has generated among the interested researchers, the world over.

OSDD community of CSIR has several credits to be proud of including open peer review, open funding review, large number of real time data on open lab notebook.

CSIR has also indicated that the next big leap planned by them is to completely re-annotate the MTb genome for which OSDD has launched ‘Connect to Decode’ 2010 (http://crdd.osdd.net). They initially expected about 150 participants to join, but within a week, they got about 450 participants. That is really the strength of collaboration on OSDD!

Congratulations CSIR and its leader Dr. Samir Brahmachari.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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