23 July 2008

Open Access to Drugs (Data)

Here's an interesting confluence of trends:

The Wellcome Trust has awarded £4.7 million [€5.8 million] to EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute [EMBL-EBI] to support the transfer of a large collection of information on the properties and activities of drugs and a large set of drug-like small molecules from the publicly listed company Galapagos NV to the public domain. It will be incorporated into the EMBL-EBI's collection of open-access data resources for biomedical research and will be maintained by a newly established team of scientists at the EMBL-EBI.

So here we have commercial drugs data being put into the public domain - no restrictions - and managed by one of the key public databases.

The transfer will empower academia to participate in the first stages of drug discovery for all therapeutic areas, including major diseases of the developing world. In future it could also result in improved prediction of drug side-effects.

Given that the current, capital-intensive method of drug development, which is highly skewed to coming up with drugs for rich, obese Westerners, this openness to all is important: it means that one of the key barriers to discovering new therapies is down, in part, at least.

And as Peter Suber rightly notes:

Kudos to Galapagos and Wellcome Trust not only for opening these data, but for choosing the public domain rather than a license. This fits with Science Commons' latest thinking on barrier-free research and collaboration in the Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data.

Public domain redux....

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