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Cancer research goes open

Cancer research goes open

Work carried out at GSK's research facilities like this one in North Carolina has been donated to the NCI.

It's all to easy to think of Open Source and its ideals as only applying to software, but some companies see the 'bazaar' method of development coming in handy outside the realms of computing too.

Medical giant GlaxoSmithKline has announced that it will be donating a wodge of research on cancer cells to the US National Cancer Institute for online researchers to pore over. The data, which covers the genomic profiling of over three hundred strains of cancer cell, will be made available over the NCI's cancer Bioinformatics Grid. The caBIG is a network designed to allow researchers to collate and share data during their research into the causes of – and possible cures for – all types of cancer.

Paolo Poletti, senior vice president of GSK's Oncology Medicines R&D group, stated that “these data are valuable for many avenues of cancer research, and we are pleased to share them with the cancer community.

Obviously, GlaxoSmithKline gets something out of the deal too: by freeing their data, the company has made it much more likely that a breakthrough will be discovered due to the increase in researchers with access to it. Once a breakthrough has been made at no cost to the company, the researchers are going to be looking for someone to fund further development – and who better to go to than the source of the original data? Cunning.

Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see companies beginning to see the advantages of open source development and taking a step back from the secretive closed source approach to research and development. Who knows: perhaps it might result in the breakthrough the world has been waiting for.

Do you believe GlaxoSmithKline has the worlds' best interests at heart, or is it a cynical ploy to get number crunching done on the cheap? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

9 Comments

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konsta 23rd June 2008, 10:52 Quote
Of course it is intended to benefit the company. But that is really the whole point of companies. I'm happy so long as we get access to cures faster.

People love to criticise drugs companies, but the simple fact is, that the western world has so far entirely failed to find a viable alternative, and you cannot sit there and moan about their profits if you have no better suggestion. In a capitalist world, we generally believe that profits are good.
Darkedge 23rd June 2008, 11:34 Quote
cynical and while I agree with you Konsta I'd go further and say that in the capitalist world, we generally believe that profits are <b>god</b>.
Icy EyeG 23rd June 2008, 12:49 Quote
As a researcher, I believe that one of the main reasons that cancer research (and other fields as well) as developed so much over the last years is that it is very easy to share information among researchers. So these initiatives that allow free share of scientific information are essential and the example should be followed.
IMAO, all scientific research (at least in these fields) should be free and drug companies should focus on cost effective production mechanisms and distribution of the final product.
liratheal 23rd June 2008, 13:04 Quote
I'm all for open medical research. I don't understand a single damned thing of it, but hey. Someone does - and I'm sure they'll be happy to see this.
Krikkit 23rd June 2008, 13:10 Quote
As long as the GSK cancer-cure comes in at <£1000, I don't mind what preferential treatment they get.
Paradigm Shifter 23rd June 2008, 13:20 Quote
If the research is 'open source', then the company that will win on whatever comes out of it is the company that can sell it the cheapest. And with the R&D being 'open source'... one of the biggest reasons for an given drug being extremely expensive is lessened. Production rarely costs all that much - it's getting the drugs through all the trials that costs the money.
Zeus-Nolan 23rd June 2008, 18:21 Quote
This is just to keep green peace away tbh, my uncle works for gsk and it was a suprise to him
bahgger 24th June 2008, 02:02 Quote
Because your uncle knows every single operation that takes place at GSK since it's such a tiny company and blatantly he's THE man in charge
Zeus-Nolan 24th June 2008, 21:23 Quote
Well I didn't mean it like that, but he does know alot that does happen within the company (not near as much as the chairman or the C.E.). Like with trying to keep green peace happy so they don't do more demonstations (small ones at that).
Anyway I think it's great that this is happening as this might get others doing this, like some of the largest pharmaceutical companies and medical companies if they haven't already done so.
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