TB or Not TB: India Crowdsources Research

Jason Overdorf | GlobalPost | July 11, 2012

Facing nearly 2 million new tuberculosis cases every year — more and more of them drug-resistant — India has a bigger stake in finding a better treatment for TB than any other country. Yet until recently, obstacles hindered Indian scientists' efforts to conduct advanced research.

The reason? India's university professors are bogged down with teaching, and few have the laboratory facilities needed to do cutting edge work. And every year, more of the best minds are lured away by the pharmaceutical industry — which has little interest in TB, from which there is little money to be made. But a pioneering effort to discover new drugs using the “open source” model prevalent in the software industry could change that.

India's Open Source Drug Discovery network (OSDD), begun by the government's Council for Scientific and Industrial Reseach in 2008, is making waves four years later. By leveraging more manpower, pooling laboratory resources and tapping resources from a government committed to boosting Indian research, they are hoping to produce a groundbreaking TB drug.

“When the economies of the developing countries are doing well, is it not time to address some of these neglected diseases?” said OSDD director T. Balganesh, former CEO of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca India. “It's very clear: If you don't do anything, don't expect the Pfizers and AstraZenecas of the world to solve the problem.”...