What is science? Is it hiding the information and keeping it secret in the hands of few, or it is radical way of collective thinking and innovating ideas and researches for the betterment of Mankind.
This is a question many of us have been raising since long and the whole concept is revolving around the idea of science being a collective enterprise. Science is free and critical thinking, openness to ideas and sharing of information. The belief that knowledge and information shall be put under boundaries beyond the reach of needy is the evil that needs to be eradicated in order to have a happy and sustained society.
It is this need of mankind that has caused the philosophy of openness to emerge as a real solution. Hundreds of thousands of us lose lives just because the drug that can cure them is present but are out of their reach, as they are too costly. Existing system works in silos, encourages an isolationist, propriety approach, promotes duplication, multiplies failure, is costly, and importantly, is directed at markets and not at public health needs.
A young boy in some part of India losses both his sisters before their fifth birthday and losses his father before he could complete his 10 year. It all happened because the pharma companies as well as government failed to keep the prices of the drugs under the reach of poor. But one brilliant move can end up this entire situation and may replace the current crippled system and it is named as OPEN SOURCE PHARMA.
With the advent of social entrepreneurship and propagation of market unsettling ideas, such as open data, open software, and crowd sourcing, it is possible that the Open Source Pharma Conference could be the beginning of the end to generations of pain and suffering that community like us endured. Primarily, we need to stimulate a culture of openness, crowd sourcing and data sharing. Exploiting the input of many and sharing information can truly help get us from A to B as quickly as possible. It can also tell us when we need to stop. The ability to also hold out our data to scrutiny is the only true way to truly validate information. It may also open up new ideas and hypotheses that may subsequently advance the field.
The basic Vision for Open Source Pharma is "MEDICINE TO ALL". It can only be achieved by creating a movement that includes existing initiatives and develops an alternative, comprehensive, open source pharmaceutical system driven by principles of openness, patient needs, and affordability.1
1. Employ radical openness, sharing, and transparency.
2. Leverage the global brainpower of the crowd.
3. Adopt open and innovative approaches to the management of intellectual property and financing.
4. Create monetary and nonmonetary reward systems for R&D that is alternatives to the prevailing proprietary model.
5. Support open access to papers, data, and other research outputs.
6. Convene and mobilize thought, opinion, and community leadership in reshaping R&D.
7. Combine small, nimble, cost-effective facilitating structures able to harness the power of individuals and entities.
8. Deliver affordable products.
9. Place patients and their interests at the center of the R&D model and the pharmaceutical system.
10. Develop a portfolio focussed on critical gaps in global health where traditional market approaches are failing, e.g., anti-infectives.
The attractiveness of open source pharma is that, first; it brings important ideas and data together in an environment not controlled by patent laws. Secondly, it democratizes information by sharing it globally. No particular pharmaceutical lab would own or have restricted access to the information. Open Source and sharing are however challenging and rather terrifying idea to promote. It sounds questionably 'radical'. However when one takes into account that this has been done in other areas, we need to rethink our reservations. Ideas like copyleft and open source software has changed markets in software, textbooks, encyclopedias, stock photography, scholarly literature, and music.
One chief aspect leading to mounting prices in the drug discovery process is the redundancy of experimentation in scientific and clinical research, which in turn sets off a chain reaction of rising costs in the entire global healthcare industry, making healthcare exorbitant even in developed countries. Some of big pharma companies after realizing this has been working on exposing their giant knowledge and experiment data to not only each other in the fraternity but also with academic community so that this knowledge and know-how can be exploited for the betterment of the entire mankind.
In the biomedical field, which is controlled by big entities and intellectual property, encouraging the notion of sharing will be hard-hitting. That's because executing open source requires us to think of two other things: How we handle possessions and how we compensate for progress and success. Rethinking these aspects is the key to upholding open source. It means rethinking how we manage or even have the need for intellectual property. It means states and societies, which ultimately need to pay, will have to develop different but palpable new ways of adequately satisfying innovation. Can we stimulate innovation, science and, critically, access to important biomedical technologies while at the same time making this all commercially viable?
2 The above statement was adopted by participants of the July 2014 Bellagio Center conference in their individual capacities. It does not necessarily represent the views of the organizations to which they belong.