Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Open Source Patents News

Glaxo Open Sources Malaria Drug Search Data 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-as-a-mosquito dept.
smellsofbikes writes "GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical company, is putting thousands of possible malaria-treating drugs into the public domain in a move that the Wall Street Journal calls a 'Linux approach' to pharmaceutical screening. Andrew Witty, who is described as the boss of GSK, says the company thinks it is 'imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them.' Of course, synthesis or discovery of new chemicals is cheap compared to efficacy and qualification studies, but this is a refreshing change from not handing out any information until after everything is patented."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Glaxo Open Sources Malaria Drug Search Data

Comments Filter:
  • Start of something (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:26PM (#32356470)

    I hope, sincerely, that this is the start of more collaborative efforts on the part of drug companies. We're quick to bash them but I believe we should applaud this effort.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:39PM (#32356620)
      I'll be cautiously, quietly applauding from a far corner, until I can figure out what exactly their ulterior motives are. They want my trust, and this is a good first step, but boy-oh-boy do they have an uphill battle before them.
      • by shipbrick (929823) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:41PM (#32356634)
        I agree, we should take the facts and be thankful. Whatever their true motives, we do not know (perhaps they just don't think they'll ever profit from malaria drugs, etc). We'll see how many negative comments regarding this are posted... But before that happens, I'd advise readers to always be skeptical, but never cynical.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by somenickname (1270442)

          (perhaps they just don't think they'll ever profit from malaria drugs, etc)

          And there you have it. Most of the countries where Malaria is prevalent are not rich countries. However, most people have heard the word Malaria and, even if they don't know what it is or how you get it, this announcement sounds impressive to them. Dengue Fever is also common in many of the areas of the world where Malaria is but they aren't releasing that research. Why? Because no one has heard of it so it's not an effective PR stunt.

          • by grcumb (781340) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @12:19AM (#32357860) Homepage Journal

            (perhaps they just don't think they'll ever profit from malaria drugs, etc)

            And there you have it. Most of the countries where Malaria is prevalent are not rich countries. However, most people have heard the word Malaria and, even if they don't know what it is or how you get it, this announcement sounds impressive to them. Dengue Fever is also common in many of the areas of the world where Malaria is but they aren't releasing that research. Why? Because no one has heard of it so it's not an effective PR stunt.

            The other reason for not releasing research on Dengue is that there is currently no treatment available whatsoever (unless you count liquids and Panadol to reduce the fever).

            Being the first company to provide a viable treatment is a very attractive prospect. I know this because I just got over a bout of Dengue a couple of months ago, and I would have paid really good money for a treatment. In fact, when I was waiting for my blood test results, I quietly prayed that I had malaria, because although it's a bitch, with treatment it's over quickly. Dengue just has to run its course.

            So yes: No profit from malaria? Open source it. Big profit from Dengue? Keep your cards to your chest.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by PDoc (841773)
              Speaking from the inside of a large pharma company, I can tell you that there is currently *a lot* of interest in Dengue. Several of the biggest drug-companies are beginning programmes aimed at Dengue, and funding bodies are proposing collaborative efforts. It's a (very) long way from a viable treatment, but the people at the top can see the money now... which helps.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hjf (703092)

            greetings from Chaco, Argentina [wikipedia.org], where we've been having dengue outbreaks lately (a couple of times a year there's a day when government asks you to go into your backyard (you can refuse, of course) to check if you have anything where mosquitos could reproduce -- tires, jars, etc. it's more about teaching the poor people.
            we've also had city-wide fumigations (according to my neighbor, who does that for a living, it's pretty much useless). but it's kinda fun looking at the trucks with speakers yelling that th

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by somenickname (1270442)

              Interestingly enough, my knowledge of Dengue only comes from living in Argentina for the last 10 years and remembering it being big in the papers a year or two ago before I left. The reason that millions of dollars can be appropriated to treat something like Influenza A is that a vaccine exists. And it exists because it also affects rich countries that can shell out enough money to make the R&D worth the investment.

            • by Inda (580031)

              also, you forgot to mention Chagas disease.

              If you want people to remember it, you should define its pronunciation.

              It is pronounced: Shaggers disease :-)

          • by PDoc (841773)
            I hate to agree with this (as a cheaper-than-a-robot-scientist within pharma), but it's probably true. GSK have had a load of bad press in the UK over the last few years, mostly due to enormous lay-offs and site closures, so a bit of good PR is appealing. However, their competitors could have done likewise with malaria or other programmes and didn't - they'd rather sit on the (fairly useless) data, so I'm actually fairly impressed. The interesting bit is to follow, though; if a university or NFP institut
        • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:36PM (#32357610)

          Drug leads are cheap compared to developing a drug. A friend worked at a drug lead company. They got bought by a big pharma. Within 2 years they had produced more drug leads than the pharma could validate in the next decade. So the pharma sold off the company.

          Glaxco is no doubt saturated with drug leads too. According to Merk is takes about 400 million dollars to walk one drug all the way through clinical trials. So there's a perpetual winnowing process at every stage with plenty of candidates to step in when an advanced compound is eliminated from further study.

          If you sell your drug lead company who do you think buys it? the competition. SO it's not like open sourcing something gives your competition something they could not get otherwise.

          Instead it just makes everything more efficient. The only reason for them to sit on those compounds would be if they simply wanted to prevent other from making them out of fear they might compete with their own,but having no intention of perusing them. Which would be pretty shitty business. It does happen of course (Monsanto is often accused of this.).

          So Glaxo is being brave and doing the right thing. But it's not costing them anything except possibly competition if one of those abandoned leads turns out to be the one.

          Now here' the twist:
          Ironically, by opening it up they maybe doing more to supress this compound than if they had kept quiet. The reason is, it's now unpatentable. What other company would invest in it?

          Thus short of government development of these. opening it up kills it's further development more effectively than saying nothing.

          • by rwiggers (1206310)

            That's good anyway.
            Probably they don't invest much in these (malaria drugs) anyway, since the main use of it would be in countries that have written in law that the government can break the patent if the cost of the medicament is too high.

          • by prograde (1425683)

            I agree completely. Except:

            Now here' the twist: Ironically, by opening it up they maybe doing more to supress this compound than if they had kept quiet. The reason is, it's now unpatentable. What other company would invest in it?

            There are still ways to get patent protection. Patent the formulation. Patent the synthesis method. Big Pharma has a long history of using these techniques to effectively extend patents almost indefinitely. The profits on a patented drug encourage them to pour the legal resources into bending patent law into a perversion of its intended goal, and the patent office (of any given country) doesn't have the resources or inclination to stop them.

        • by syousef (465911) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @01:49AM (#32358340) Journal

          I agree, we should take the facts and be thankful.

          Oh thank you sir. I'm so greatful sir. Only sir do you think sir that you might find it in your heart sir to not lock up my own genome sir? I was hoping that we who share the genome sir would be able to use it to fight disease sir along with all those other drugs sir that you filed for first sir but you see sir if you lock it up sir many of us will die sir. May I lick your boot now sir?

          But seriously, WHY should I be thankful to companies who are behaving badly and manipulating the law so as to maximise their own profits despite the death and suffering it causes, just because they released some small subset of the data? Are you mad? If I am mugged and beaten up should I be thankful that my attacker only laid the boot in 4 times instead of 5?

          • by halivar (535827)

            Easy solution: boycott. Ask your doctor not to sell you any of those evil capitalistic big pharma drugs (that they developed with billions of dollars from their own hideously immoral profits).

            That will show them.

            • by syousef (465911)

              Easy solution: boycott. Ask your doctor not to sell you any of those evil capitalistic big pharma drugs (that they developed with billions of dollars from their own hideously immoral profits).

              That will show them.

              Actually that would still leave you with a whole host of non-patented drugs. Depending on your medical condition you might still be okay. But that's not the point. Boycotts like that don't work. They certainly don't make the drugs cheaper, so they're not much of a solution.

      • by izomiac (815208)
        Malaria kills a lot of people, so there's a lot of interest in providing the impoverished equatorial nations with anti-malarial drugs. Because it tends to only be endemic in poorer nations (poverty and malaria contribute to each other) there's not much profit in developing anti-malarials. Obviously they anticipate no cheap but effective drugs, so Glaxo Smith Klein can generate some good will by giving away a non-profitable potential product line.

        Additionally, I'm sure that pharmaceuticals get asked to
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by surmak (1238244)

        I'll be cautiously, quietly applauding from a far corner, until I can figure out what exactly their ulterior motives are. They want my trust, and this is a good first step, but boy-oh-boy do they have an uphill battle before them.

        Their motives are pretty clear: malaria effects half a billion people a year, but they are mostly poor and in poor countries. This way Glaxo is able to outsource the R&D, and get good PR (and maybe do some good for the world at the same time).

        Meanwhile, their scientists can focus on the very profitable lifestyle drugs (e.g Viagara, Procieca), and drugs for conditions that effect the rich (high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and the like).

        • by Cylix (55374)

          The movie Idiocracy wasn't really a work of fiction, but rather a glimpse at the world of tomorrow. In the movie, science had focused on developing drugs to stop balding and increase erections.

          I can't wait for Starbuck's to make the shift.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      I'm not surprised they'd be doing this with malaria drugs given who they're targeting with them they're not particularly profitable. I wouldn't be surprised if they try this with antibiotics next. Neither set of drugs are particularly profitable and are done mainly as a community service.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        I'm not surprised they'd be doing this with malaria drugs given who they're targeting with them they're not particularly profitable. ... Neither set of drugs are particularly profitable and are done mainly as a community service.

        Of course anti-malarias were very profitable (along with HIV/AIDS, and heart drugs) until the poorer countries started issuing compulsory licenses.

        Once a country issues a compulsory license, the unaffected pharmaceuticals cut their prices ~50% on any similar drugs in that market.
        And yet even with 50% off the already discounted developing world price, they're selling product and making money.

        GlaxoKlineSmith is one of the few pharmaceutical companies that hasn't been an utter dick, but don't think that they'r

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      "Sorry for poisoning y... wait, look over there! Is that Elvis!"

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      As long as pharmaceutical development is a private for-profit enterprise, the motives of the entities engaging in it will always be suspect, and that suspicion will usually be warranted.

      • by maxume (22995)

        Their motives are not suspect, they are obvious.

        Fortunately, existing drugs are effective enough against a wide range of conditions and regulation is effective enough that they are not able to sell cyanide pills for the treatment of anxiety (but you do have to get a doctors note to get your weed).

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:41PM (#32356640) Homepage Journal

    Oh to be a fly on the wall when RMS reads that.

  • Old News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by methano (519830) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:44PM (#32356680)
    This is old news in the pharmaceutical world. The general consensus is that this is only a PR stunt and doesn't really offer much at all. They're not offering the compounds as little bottles of powders, but only as pictures of the molecules. Don't be impressed.
    • by poetmatt (793785)

      "GSK will publish details of 13,500 chemical compounds from its own library" doesn't sound like it's incomplete data.

    • Re:Old News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:01PM (#32356876) Homepage
      Outside of the pharmaceutical world, this is still better than nothing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AHuxley (892839)
        What they could do is donate a factory to pump out cheap, safe anti parasite like meds (eg guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis).
        One tablet per child, a clinic to monitor the meds and a community is a bit better off even with bad water.
        Less sick children, staying in school for a very low state cost.
        They have then have the option to study hard, enter politics, mining and consider the needs for quality local private pharmaceutical enterprise.
        Slowly they may reshape
        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          Such places already exist, marketing mainly toward the developing countries. They aren't run by the big research-oriented firms. Instead, those little places rely on any information they can gain, such as reverse-engineering and public releases.

          Among the research giants, this isn't anything more than PR. Among the villages of rural Africa, this (hopefully) reduces the cost of a low-quality malaria drug from about $4 to $1. That's a big deal.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shipbrick (929823)
      I'd guess they are also willing to provide samples, but I don't know. Anyhow, in the research world, a picture of a molecule is just as good to an medicinal and/or organic chemist, they can figure out how to synthesize it themselves and perhaps they might even be able to get some help by looking at the patents. Some medicinal chemists make tons of molecules for a purpose, only to find out they don't have any activity. This info would allow them to start with a parent compound they know will have some act
      • by shipbrick (929823)
        I just realized I typed "kill malaria", but malaria is a disease caused by parasites such as Plasmodium falciparum (which are transmitted by mosquitoes). I guess you could say plasmodiums are the "malaria parasite", then you could 'kill' them...
      • by methano (519830)
        Sorry, but a picture of a molecule to a medicinal and/or organic chemists is about as good as a picture of a house is to a carpenter. He might know how to make it but it would take a long time to do so. Glaxo, narrowing it down to a mere 13,000, doesn't give you much of a start. Narrowing it down to 5 or 10, that's where your little description kicks in.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Whats better is it was researched funded by government and other grants.

      We paid for the research anyway, its not like they are 'giving' us anything we didn't 'give' them the money to find it with.

      This is just the typical BS they put out to 'the dulls' who don't realize what they do.

      The end result is that they'll snoop around and find some good info from what they give out to the public, turn around, patent it and sell it to us at $250/pill

    • If a drug company is going to open source any type of data, it makes sense to open the most likely to be profitless in the future. With the Bill and Melinda Foundation targeting Malaria as strongly as they are with the intention of giving the vaccination (and possibly cures) away for free, it's really only a matter of time before either the market for the Malaria drugs are worth nothing at all or GSK finds themselves in a 20 year long patent dispute with Bill who has plenty of experience fighting these thin
      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        My fiancée had to take some of those Indian low-quality pills while we were in Africa. Anything that might make 'em a bit better is a good thing.

        • I have no idea if they are really low quality. I'd imagine that any firm that is counterfeiting the American drug technology probably has done a relatively precise job of reverse engineering what they are copying. I can only image that it would be bad business for them to do an imprecise job of it.

          I also don't think the American drug producers wouldn't be so pissed about it if the pills weren't relatively accurate facsimiles of the originals. After all, they'd have no problem battling the Indian firms if th
  • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <.almafuerte. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:47PM (#32356722)

    'imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them.

    If you want to earn the trust of society, you should just do the right thing.

    Explicitly stating that you want to earn the trust of the society is something you do in front of the shareholders, not publicly.

    We already know you want our trust, and we already know what you'll do with it if you ever get it back.

  • makes me wonder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by youn (1516637)

    _ how much data is released about the drugs? (it's one thing to say this drug is made of this, another to release all necessary information)
    _ what drugs are released (is it really the most up to date stuff or is it the drugs that didn't work 15 years ago and are about to go in the public domain anyway)

    warren buffet said, "behind every business decision... the good reason, what convinces everybody (we want to save the world), and the real reason (like we need a pr stunt).

    if the real intent is common good...

  • These a drugs that only poor tribal people really need. If it were research for something like a cancer drug (ie bought by rich westerners), then their moral high ground would quickly vanish.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mirix (1649853)

      This was my thought as well, give it away because good PR is worth more than the drugs would be worth.

      Nevertheless, I still think it's a positive decision. Would be nice if we could get an open sourced drug for cancer or heart disease by the time I need it, though. (cancer and heart disease being the top two killers in the developed world, and all).

  • Sorry, but I just don't buy it.

    The nature of big pharmaceutical is well known. Profit is above all else for these people.

    The data that has been released can not possibly be useful in terms of developing any kind of significantly effective drug to fight / cure / mitigate malaria.

    It just isn't realistic to believe that a major drug company like Glaxo would do *ANYTHING* that was altruistic.

    Not possible. The data is clearly useless.
    • by sincewhen (640526)

      Well, I would suspect that some of these chemicals/drugs could be effective against Malaria.

      However GSK have looked at the large number of tests they would have to conduct, the price the potential buyers could afford to pay, and decided that it isn't worth their or any other pharma company's time as they wouldn't make their money back.

      Thus they release them for the goodwill instead.

    • by Holi (250190)

      Maybe less shrooms would give you a better perspective. The data is more likely that not very sound, if it were useless then this pr stunt, Granted I have very little trust in the pharmaceutical industry, but this is also a disease that would provide very little profit compared to other research. What it seems like is they are looking for a way to reduce research costs. Reduced research costs means greater access to a drug that could save millions, in money and lives, to an area of the world that can afford

    • by jonwil (467024)

      Given that most of the places where Malaria is a problem dont generally have populations with the money to afford expensive drugs and dont generally have much respect for western IP law, they probably decided that it wasnt worth the effort to commercialize a drug that most of the target market wouldn't be able to afford (or would be able to obtain through cheaper generics made by companies who dont respect western patents)

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Yes the "cheaper generics made by companies who dont respect western patents" is bad news for the average US intergenerational investors- your "trustafarian".
        With all the poor parts of the world declaring medical emergencies and selling western pharma for cents in the $.
        Sadly some make real cash and become creative. Like doing real trials and finding new drugs.
        Some brands take new pharma to the US as legal FDA approved IP protected drugs.
        If only the senator from Disney could fix the ~ 12 year generic
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's Kline, not Klein.

  • by freaker_TuC (7632) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:35PM (#32357146) Homepage Journal

    Let's hope they get lots of good feedback, so, they will get the message not "everything" has to be closed-sourced.

    This might be a good first incentive of another sector opening up in business.

    It might be a PR stunt, but if this goes right, common people will see there are other possibilities; making it less feasable for this sector to force the impossible in the future...

    I think all research for the 5 or 10 most common diseases should be open-sourced towards the world, for all to anticipate in such research.

  • Hasn't Google and multiple other companies shown that there very well may be profit in a positive pro-people (as opposed to the more common system of pro-greed) concept. I wholeheartedly hope that this type of approach to branding, marketing or public relations gains more wide spread usage.

    Lets face it, we as human beings want the good guys to win. If a company can express a certain goodness in nature, i have no doubt; and happily so, since this might be an interesting possibility for capitalistic econom
  • by ChefJoe (808832) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:58PM (#32357736)
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7296/full/nature09107.html [nature.com] The paper was already published last week in Nature. There was another paper by Guiguemde and Kip Guy in the same issue that my lab helped with. The problem is that antimalarial drugs need to be affordable for millions of people to take daily in places where people live off less than $1/day. Things like Coartem and even artemisinin combination pills cost too much for most of the countries that need them, due to patents and safe manufacturing facilities or even just raw materials. Luckily, malaria is getting special recognition and that helps a lot with widely dispensing every tool available to combat the parasite.
  • Just seeing a non-geek publication use that term makes me tingle.
  • by 2Bits (167227) on Thursday May 27, 2010 @12:58AM (#32358084)

    I'm taking it with a big grain of salt. The article only said that Glaxo would publish information of chemical compounds that have potential to act against the parasite that causes malaria , it didn't say that those are real final drugs that a third-world pharmaceutical factory can take to produce tablets. As anyone in the drug research would know (I'm only a programmer), in order to discover a cure, researchers generate thousands, or even millions, of chemical compounds to study. The majority of them are not useful for anything. They are not publishing information about confirmed hits.

    The other thing I'm questioning is the patents. It just said the patents are waived for studying, it didn't say about manufacturing and marketing. What if one of the compound published turned out to be a hit, and Glaxo had patented it. Can others still use it without royalties? What about the IP of any derivatives?

    Still a lot of questions to be answered.

  • by RichiH (749257)

    Stuff like that makes me choose a brand when buying things.

    Now if whoever bought the company that wanted to free the drugs against the sleeping illness from any IP (which, in turn, bought the company that wanted to free the drugs against the sleeping illness from any IP) would go through with it, a pill that has _no_ economic value to a large megacorp but could be manufactured locally and cure millions of people who are de facto in a coma...

Loose bits sink chips.

Working...