Embargoed for release: Monday, August 23, 8:35 a.m., Eastern Time
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An unlikely effort is underway to lift the veil of nearly-total secrecy that has surrounded the process of developing new prescription drugs for the last century, scientists said today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The upheaval in traditional practice would make key data available to college students, university professors, and others in an open, collective process.
Called open-source drug discovery, the new approach involves an online community of computer users from around the world working together to discover and develop much-needed new drugs. It could lead to inexpensive drugs to treat a wide variety of diseases, including tuberculosis and malaria, that claim a huge toll in developing countries. Scientists from government, industry, and academia are presenting a dozen reports on this topic during a special symposium entitled “Open-source Drug Discovery” at the ACS meeting.
“I believe this is the way to go about not only drug discovery, but it may be a way of doing science in the future,” said Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) Project Director Samir Brahmachari, Ph.D. “Everybody can contribute.” Brahmachari, who is director general of CSIR and one of the pioneers of the open-source movement, notes that most drug discoveries are made in a closed-door environment in which pharmaceutical companies keep drug development information under wraps and limit participation of the academic world, such as colleges and universities. The OSDD program aims to address this issue by attempting to attract the youngest and brightest minds around the globe to be part of the drug discovery movement, he said.