How open-source medicine could prepare us for the next pandemic

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The old drug discovery system was built to benefit shareholders, not patients. But a new, Linux-like platform could transform the way medicine is developed—and energize the race against COVID-19. By Ruth Reader, writer for Fast Company.

The response to COVID-19 has been more open-source than any drug effort in modern memory. On January 11, less than two weeks after the virus was reported to the World Health Organization, Chinese researchers published a draft of the virus’s genetic sequence. The information enabled scientists across the globe to begin developing tests, treatments, and vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies searched their archives for drugs that might be repurposed as treatments for COVID-19 and formed consortiums to combine resources and expedite the process. These efforts have yielded some 90 vaccine candidates, seven of which are in Phase I trials and three of which are advancing to Phase II. There are nearly 1,000 clinical trials listed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to COVID-19.

In recent history, pharmaceutical companies have failed to deliver treatments for devastating illnesses because they cannot easily profit from them. While they may investigate diseases for which there is no treatment or cure and even find compelling insights, they won’t necessarily turn those findings into medicine.

A human rights lawyer named Jaykumar Menon is now building out a platform where scientists and researchers can freely access technological tools for researching disease, share their discoveries, launch investigations into molecules or potential drugs, and find entities to turn that research into medicine. If the platform succeeds, it would allow drugs to succeed on their merit and need, rather than their ability to be profitable.

Super interesting reading. Highly recommended!

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