Creation of “Linux for Drugs” gets support from Tata Trusts

Open_Source_Pharma_LogoIn what could turn out to be quite a significant development for pharma innovation combined with affordable medicines, Tata Trusts have announced that they will support the creation of the Open Source Pharmaceutical Foundation (OSPF), with operations commencing later this year, under the leadership of Mr Jaykumar Menon, Dr Tanjore Balganesh, Mr Bernard Munos and Dr Mathew Todd. As described, “OSPF seeks to support an alternative comprehensive, open source pharmaceutical innovation model driven by principles of openness, patient needs, and affordability.” They go on to describe it as: In four words, Open Source Pharma is “affordable medicine for all.” In three words: “Linux for drugs.”

The Open Source approach to drug development is a model of pharmaceutical innovation that focuses on a collaborative approach to tackle problems of drug development, while also keeping costs low for patients. As our readers may remember, I recently wrote about how the fiasco around Martin Schkreli (the ex hedge fund manager who raised prices of a 62 year old drug by 5500%) was but a symptom of the larger malaise of costs and pricing in the pharmaceutical world. This Open Source approach to drug development is certainly one that seems like it could at least partially ameliorate the problem. Amongst other things, it helps reduce R&D costs, it allows drug development to focus on non-profitable sectors/diseases as well, and it encourages ‘openness’ and thus more follow on research. While clinical trials, which often are very expensive and add to the cost of the drug, would still need to be done, the press release interestingly mentions “IT-enabled clinical trials with open data” as another factor that would reduce costs.

As our readers may remember, the Government of India, through the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) also runs a similar programme known as the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) programme. We’ve run a number of blog posts on it, though our last post seems to have been on a bureaucratic barrier that had paused its funding. Hopefully though, with the Government making the right noises about Openness in the international forum (See: The Path to Innovation is Open Models and not IP: India at WTO Trips Council), these types of barriers don’t pop up too often. I’m also curious to see how/if the OSDD and the newly formed OSPF will interact with each other. It’s also worth noting at this point, that the Tata Trusts have also been supportive of the OSDD program through their Tata CSIR OSDD Fellowship programs. A big round of applause to the Tata Trusts from me for sure!

I’m reproducing the Press Release for the OSPF below. (or click here):


Tata Trusts support the creation of the Open Source Pharma Foundation

Linux for drugs

Germany – Seeking to create a world of affordable medicine for all, Tata Trusts has announced their support for the creation of the Open Source Pharma Foundation (OSPF) at OSP2, the 2nd Annual Global Open Source Pharma conference. Held at Castle Rauischholzhausen in Germany on Sept 01 to 03, 2015, the OSP conference brought together researchers, NGOs, industry professionals, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who aim to create better, cheaper, and faster ways to bring novel therapeutics to market. In addition to Tata Trusts, the conference included participants from Médecins Sans Frontières, Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD), Sanofi Aventis, Open Source Malaria, the Open Society Foundations, the Structural Genomics Consortium, INSERM, Oxford University, Philipps-University Marburg, Paris Descartes University, McGill University, FasterCures – a center of the Milken Institute, Transparency Life Sciences, Taros Chemicals, Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), Germany’s House of Pharma, Gesmer Updegrove LLP, Cures within Reach, Medicines for Malaria Venture, and the Foundation for Neglected Disease Research, and has previously included participants from the WHO/TDR, other large pharmaceutical companies, and several national governments. In four words, Open Source Pharma is “affordable medicine for all.” In three words: “Linux for drugs.”

Open Source Pharma (OSP) is a concept inspired by the Linux model of operation. Adapted to tackling important public health challenges, it hopes to catalyze radical change in the way we do medical R&D and deliver better and more affordable innovation quicker and cheaper to patients. In brief, crowdsourced, computer-driven drug discovery; IT-enabled clinical trials with open data; and generics manufacture. This year’s conference was a follow-up to the first global Open Source Pharma Conference, held at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Lake Como, Italy in 2014, where participants adopted a joint mission statement for the movement.

Download the complete press release here >>

About the Open Source Pharma Foundation

With operations commencing in late 2015, the Open Source Pharma Foundation seeks to support an alternative comprehensive, open source pharmaceutical innovation model driven by principles of openness, patient needs, and affordability.

Biographies of leadership

  1. Jaykumar Menon
    An international human rights lawyer, scholar and social entrepreneur, Jaykumar Menon is currently Professor of Practice at the McGill University Institute for International Development, in Canada. He holds a JD and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and completed a BA and one year of medical school at Brown. His research, teachings and practice focus on open innovation approaches such as crowdsourcing, innovation prizes and open IP to realize human rights and next generation economic rights including the right to food, water and health. He is a founder of the Open Source Pharma Foundation, which aims to help generate breakthrough affordable new cures in the areas of public health. Know more about Jaykumar Menon >>
  2. Tanjore Balganesh
    Dr. T.S. Balganesh was the Project Head of the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) Unit of CSIR, the national laboratory system of India. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, University of Calcutta, India and subsequently spent post-doctoral years with Dr. Sanford Lacks at Brookhaven National Laboratories Brookhaven (NY, USA). Later he was associated with Professor Thomas Trautner at the Max Plank Institute for Molecular Genetics at Berlin (Germany). He joined Astra Research Centre India as a Senior Scientist in 1987. He took over as Head of Research at AstraZeneca R&D India in 2000 focusing the unit on discovering novel drugs for the treatment of Tuberculosis. Further as a VP Discovery Research AZ, he handled all the research activities of this R&D unit.
  3. Bernard Munos
    Bernard Munos is the founder of InnoThink, a consultancy that focuses on pharmaceutical innovation—specifically, where it comes from and how to get more of it. He was previously an advisor for corporate strategy at Eli Lilly, where he focused on disruptive innovation and the radical redesign of R&D. His research has been published in Nature and Science and profiled by Forbes magazine. FiercePharma named him one of the 25 most influential people in biopharma. Know more about Bernard Munos >>
  4. Matthew Todd
    Mat Todd was born in Manchester, England. He obtained his PhD in organic chemistry from Cambridge University in 1999, was a Wellcome Trust postdoc at The University of California, Berkeley, a college fellow back at Cambridge University, a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London and since 2005 has been at the School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney where he is Associate Professor. He is the founder of Open Source Malaria. Know more about Matthew Todd >>

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