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OSDD still well on track


Readers may remember the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) programme launched by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) which we had blogged about a little over a year ago here. Started in September, 2008, the OSDD is a consortium of Indian as well as global researchers who are currently getting together to find a cure to Tuberculosis.

As MIT’s Technology Review notes, November 23rd marked a red-letter day for OSDD since after about 14 months since its launch, the consortium now has more than 2000 members with its global partnerships. Incidentally, inspired by the OSDD, India’s national solar mission also announced on the same day, its plans to launch an Open Source Solar Development (OSSD) in the coming years in an attempt to make collaborative efforts towards further development of tapping solar energy.

The OSDD movement was initially conceptualised by CSIR’s Director-General Dr.Samir K Brahmachari (Mrinalini had interviewed him earlier here) as a way towards providing easier access to medicines through means of providing cheaper medicines in medical fields which have largely been neglected due to lack of a high-paying consumer market. Taking the instance of tuberculosis, very little development has taken place in the last few decades towards the development towards drug discovery for treating it due to various factors and cost considerations.

As it’s first target, OSDD has noted that of the roughly 1,550 new chemical entities marketed worldwide between 1975 to 2004, only 3 were for tuberculosis, representing a gross neglect for one of the world’s most common tropical diseases. The OSDD consortium plans on tackling this by taking an alternate approach to drug discovery through means of open access to research conducted by voluntary researchers, thus significantly reducing the cost barriers involved. “It is a concept to collaboratively aggregate the biological and genetic information available to scientists in order to use it to hasten the discovery of drugs. This will provide a unique opportunity for scientists, doctors, technocrats, students and others with diverse expertise to work for a common cause.”

According to the OSDD site, the Government of India has committed US $38 million towards this project. About US $12 million has already been released by the Government. OSDD also seeks to raise funds from Developmental Agencies and Global Healthcare NGOs. These funds would be used for conducting Quality Control Activities, tests and rewards and scholarships for contributors, etc.

In their efforts towards this drug discovery, they have set up a web portal [ http://www.osdd.net ] which has so far taken up more than 120 projects. Their current focus is on expanding our understanding of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTb). It is expected that the collective work on collection and analysis of information by scientists, doctors, technocrats, students and other volunteers will lead to a collaborative, sustained and coordinated attempt at drug discovery for tuberculosis. Currently, in furtherance of this, OSDD has launched a “Connect to Decode” 2010, initiative to re-annotate the MTb genome. More than a 100 registrations were done within the first day of announcing this project. For readers interested in contributing, registrations end on November 30th, 2009. Student readers may be interested in noting that “For students this would be their summer project, the successful completion of which would fetch them a certificate from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)“. More details on the project can be found here.

Admittedly, the consortium wasn’t always met with much optimism at the time of it’s launch, but this is slowly changing as more and more participation is seen. We at SpicyIP wish them all the best with their efforts at finding a cure to tuberculosis and other neglected diseases, and indeed, to inspire others to join in or even take up such kinds of collaborative efforts for a common good.

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