Advancing Antimalarial Drug Research Through Open Source Initiatives

Jeremy Burrows | The Guardian | July 24, 2013

Open research can lead to new drugs tackling diseases that afflict the world's poor. But first, more scientists need to buy into contributing to something bigger than their careers

Conventional drug discovery is typically clothed in secrecy, as scientists compete to find the next billion-dollar blockbuster. For "diseases of poverty" such as malaria, however, the low commercial value of the end-product means that the need for secrecy and competition is diminished, if not counterproductive. Scientists across the world are now starting to conduct research on the diseases that affect the world's poorest more openly, and to great effect.

In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline, the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee released the details of 20,200 compounds active against malaria (malaria "hits") into the public domain. This signalled a landmark in antimalarial drug development and the community responded with enthusiasm. Many researchers were keen to contribute and make a difference, yet many were saying that what they really needed was access to the physical compounds.