Oct 2, 2009
While large pharmaceutical firms aren’t known for being generous with their data, a small group of pharma scientists is looking to change that perception with a call for pre-competitive bioinformatics projects and enhanced data sharing in the industry.
In an opinion piece published in the September issue of Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, computational biologists from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer argue that “high-quality, open and accessible data are the foundation of pre-competitive research, and strong public-private partnerships have considerable potential to enhance public data resources, which would benefit everyone engaged in drug discovery.”
They add that many companies are already beginning to embrace this idea, and that for some firms, “the focus has moved from the vigorous pursuit of intellectual property towards exploration of pre-competitive cross-industry collaborations and engagement with the public domain.”
The paper comes in the wake of several initiatives that aim to encourage pharma scientists to open up a bit, including the non-profit Sage Bionetworks, founded by former Merck scientists, which plans to build a pre-competitive platform for annotated models of human disease; the cross-industry collaborative initiative Pistoia Alliance, which is developing standards for non-competitive aspects of the drug-discovery workflow; and the European public-private Innovative Medicines Initiative, a collaborative effort in which several pharmas are pooling resources in hopes of lowering the overall costs of drug development.
The borders around this emerging pre-competitive informatics space have yet to be defined, the authors of the Nature Reviews paper wrote, but noted that a first step is creating public-private partnerships that can expand on existing public resources to create “a series of foundational informatics resources.”
In addition, pharma firms need to explore new types of IT infrastructure and tool development.”
Author: Vivien Marx