Alzheimer's and open source medicine

Alzheimer's and open source medicine

Summary: Open source is not just for software any more.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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We think of open source as being a process for developing software. It's also a process for developing cures.

As Gina Kolata notes at The New York Times, it's working in the area of Alzheimer's Disease.

In this case the National Institutes of Health acted as a broker among both public and private institutions, the idea being that resulting knowledge on biomarkers would be shared.

The NIH was working as a higher-order Eclipse Foundation, with companies sharing the expense of building a common core of knowledge all could then use.

The result of the NIH effort has been new tests for Alzheimer's, using PET scans and spinal fluid, as well as over 100 drug studies aimed at halting or preventing the disease.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation saw this success and is putting $40 million toward doing the same thing for Parkinson's. As with the Alzheimer's work, the Fox money is going into a search for biomarkers for the disease.

That's not all. When the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put $287 million into a search for AIDS vaccines in 2006, it was with this same open source proviso. Recipients would have to collaborate, sharing data, in order to get in on the action.

Canada backed off its support of an international AIDS effort this year in favor of a partnership with the Gates effort.

Open source developed in software as an outgrowth of the Internet, as people realized that collaboration could be done cheaply and could create projects no one company could fund on its own. That same idea has now come to medicine, it's being proven to work, and I predict it will soon sweep the sciences.

Open source is not just for software any more.

Topic: Open Source

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14 comments
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  • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

    How will open sourcing the medicine affect the big pharma companies? They aren't going to like their profits being cut into like this, unless one of these foundations goes to them and says "hey, here is our blueprint for the drug, can you manufacture it?"
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

      @Loverock Davidson They're involved with it. And for the same reason many IBM rivals became involved with Eclipse, because they can't solve these problems by themselves. They need a common base from which to work if the numbers are going to come out right.
      DanaBlankenhorn
    • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

      @Loverock Davidson - I would think that this type of model would benefit the big pharmaceutical companies. Aren't most of their costs sunk into R&D? By having a shared, open data model, you can essentially reduce the R&D costs and spur faster product development through competition.
      jhibbets
  • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

    Oh please. So now the scientific method is "open source"? Nice try.
    Vesicant
    • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

      @Vesicant You're right, in that the scientific method has been perverted by intellectual property considerations, and this is a return to how that method was supposed to work.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

        @DanaBlankenhorn Interesting how NGOs and private foundations get a free pass on the conflict-of-interest thing that you'd rush to judgment on a for-profit entity.
        Vesicant
      • Give yourself and "F"...

        for failing to understand the free-market system. And yes, the free-market system works just as well in medical/drug research as in any other part of industry.

        The profit motive is and has been a huge driving force for bringing so much of the world out of the middle-ages.

        Without the profit motive you will still have research and you might even get some sharing of information from that. But, without the profit motive to drive the entrepreneurs and the ambitious, then the initiatives may never get started that could result in the many new medicines and medical techniques and medical equipment.

        What you'll get with "open source" (and I think it's a very idiotic term), will be lackluster research and very few new medicines and very few new techniques and very few new equipment.

        People have come to expect huge returns from the free-market and they've come to trust developments in that system. As an example, with "open source" (I still find myself hating that term), who's going to be responsible for the lawsuits that inevitably will come from the use of any "new" product?

        There are very good reason why "free" or "open source" never really took off in many fields of science or research or development. Why give up what has brought the world out of the middle-ages in favor of something that most people don't really want or trust?
        adornoe
      • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

        @Vesicant. Yes. Shared efforts and governments do get a free pass on that conflict-of-interest thing.

        @adornoe I'm afraid it's you who fail to understand that, when a job is too big for any one private entity, someone or some group of someones must step in to do the job. While I applaud your building a bridge back to 1832, I think in the end Henry Clay won that argument.
        DanaBlankenhorn
      • You lack the capacity to analyze issues without thinking in socialist mode.

        <b>@adornoe I'm afraid it's you who fail to understand that, when a job is too big for any one private entity, someone or some group of someones must step in to do the job. </b><br><br>What you fail to understand is that, there are indeed groups of people, known as corporations (and sometimes universities and other large entities) that can and do oftentimes solve the problems that you and other "open source" advocates naively believe can be done without the profit motive and without the free-market being involved. The fact is that "open source" was the way of the past and, though the research sometimes did lead to new discoveries and new developments, it was the free-market and the incentives from that free-market that led to the modern world that you are enjoying right now. <br> <br><b>While I applaud your building a bridge back to 1832, I think in the end Henry Clay won that argument. </b><br><br>Open source, while sounding like a neat a wholesome idea, would've kept us in the world of 1832 and backwards, which you ironically are claiming that I would've preferred. <br><br>The bridge to the future and to the modern world which you enjoy right now was not built with open source. It was hard work and the free-market and the many initiatives from intelligent people and the ambitious entrepreneurs who have brought us out of the middle-ages. The incentive system and people with initiatives is what got us out of the middle-ages and even out of the stone-age. With your open source, we'd still be hunting for our food and washing our clothes in river streams.<br><br>Your big problem is that you cannot think beyond your immediate circumstances and your immediate history. You need to be better at examining the big picture of how things actually work in nature and especially with humans interaction and human nature.
        adornoe
  • Collective power

    It's all about access to information. The more you know the better your decisions will be.

    Collective development is less efficient in the short term, but is usually more robust and adaptable. With a wider range of input and constant evaluation the end result will be better. You also have the advantage of open access to the results. They are not artificially constrained by a high selling price. The product or system isn't important, it works for all kinds.

    The ultimate goal of a freedom based society is to maximize the collective welfare with minimum impact on it's individual members. The critical point is to have _coordination_ without having centralized control.
    lars626
    • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

      @lars626 It's important that you note the "collective welfare," which the Founders called the "general welfare." There are some conservatives today who don't recognize that there is such a thing as the general welfare. This has been an ongoing argument since the Founders, and modern conservatives are taking the anti-Federalist position, not the Federalist one. I guess they're now building a bridge to 1783.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • First it was 1832 and now it's 1783?

        @DanaBlankenhorn

        Pretty soon, you'll have us back in the stone-age, which is liable to happen anyway if you and your "open source" nonsense were to become the norm.

        <b>It's important that you note the "collective welfare," which the Founders called the "general welfare."</b>

        When the founding fathers talked about the general welfare, they weren't talking about taking over the economy or trying to promote "general welfare" the way the democrats use it nowadays. General welfare had nothing to do with making sure that everybody made a decent living or was guaranteed one or didn't have to worry about working for a living. You are conveniently changing the "general welfare" to "collective welfare" to suit your argument. It is the bastardizing of that "general welfare" clause that has helped to bring this country down from being the most powerful to becoming basically an "also-ran", and perhaps in a few years, a third world country.

        <b>There are some conservatives today who don't recognize that there is such a thing as the general welfare.</b>

        Neither the constitution nor the bill of rights mention "general welfare" as a goal of government. Promoting the general welfare is not the same as guaranteeing that everybody will make a great living or have a great lifestyle or that government will lead the way for everyone. Promoting general welfare is done through insuring good infrastructure for businesses and making sure that the justice system and defense of the country are in good order. Without those insurances, "general welfare" would not even be a thought.

        <b>This has been an ongoing argument since the Founders, and modern conservatives are taking the anti-Federalist position, not the Federalist one.</b>

        You are the most clueless blogger that I have ever had a conversation with.

        You have no idea about what this country is about or how it got to be the most powerful country in the history of the world. The freedoms that we enjoy came to us via the constitution and bill of rights. We also have the free-will to do with our lives as we wish, as long as it is within the constraints of the law. Every individual in this country is given the facilities to go as far as he desires and is capable of going. If everybody was "given" everything they need in order to basically exist and go through the motions of life, then we'd still be back in ancient times or before.

        What has been created in this country in the last 100 years or so is a society where a great percentage of people have become dependent upon government for their lives, and that includes for shelter, food, entertainment, medicine, transportation and a lot of their their basic needs. When a country, through government largess becomes lackadaisical and lazy, we end up with what we have now, which is a country going downhill very fast. It's amazing to me how there can be so many people, including you, who cannot even see what's right under their noses. The evidence is very clear that government intervention into every part of our lives has been the cause of our decline. And now, you want to put the finishing touches on our coffin by naively believing that "open source" is the wave of the future.

        A deep thinker you definitely are not!

        <i>I guess they're now building a bridge to 1783.</i>

        If you would bother to look very closely, you'd notice that we are headed there very fast, but not because of republican/conservative beliefs. And what's taking us there is the creeping socialism which you and the democrats have preached so much and which so many have stupidly adopted.

        If you don't wake up to the reality around you, Dana, you will find yourself on the unemployment lines within 2 to 5 years, and then you'll still be naively blaming the republicans for the problems which you and the democrats created.
        adornoe
      • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

        @Adornoe Not everything is political in terms of Republican vs. Democrat, liberal vs. conservative. Only an ideologue would think it is. I am not one, although in my youth I admit to having followed what was then the conservative ideology.

        But I have been trying to consider where your ideology comes from. Are you fighting Henry Clay's Whigs who supported internal improvements and the US Bank in 1832, or are you the kind of Anti-Federalist who supported the Articles of Confederation and opposed the Constitution ratified by the states after 1787?

        I don't have a clear answer.

        I suspect you are following an iron ideology of wholly American manufacture, and I know from my reading of history that America is not an ideological country, that we do what works and not what some authority tells us is right.

        Open source works, both in the creation of large software projects and for the shared attack on diseases like Alzheimer's. You don't want to believe it because it conflicts with your ideology, so you reject the facts.

        But Americans prefer facts to ideology. Always.
        DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: Alzheimer's and open source medicine

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    100 Million Americans have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease, 35 million are worried about Alzheimer's Disease.

    http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/02/about-alzheimers-reading-room.html
    BobDeMarco