Open Source Drug Discovery

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Open Source Drug Discovery

Concept, practice and movement, but also the name of a specific organisation, see OSDD - India


Samir K Brahmachari:

"Most of the drug discoveries are made in a closed door environment, where the highest degree of secrecy is maintained resulting in the lack of open participation of the entire academic world. The Open Source Drug Discovery Programme aims to address the issue by attempting to capture the youngest and brightest minds around the globe to be a part of discovery of therapeutics for infectious diseases.

Also, to apply the knowledge of pharmacogenomics to keep the cost of patent drugs, especially for chronic diseases requiring long-term treatment, low. It aims to establish a novel web-enabled open source platform -- both computational and experimental -- to make drug discovery cost effective and affordable by utilising the creative potential of college and university students along with senior scientists, a collective approach to drug development. The students and scientists, in turn, would also be rewarded with incentives for developing novel algorithms, finding drug targets, leading identification and other novel contributions." (


The Tropical Disease Initiative:

"The Tropical Disease Initiative seeks cures for these "orphan" illnesses using an open source research and development model. Started by Dr. Andrej Sali, professor of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UC San Francisco, TDI will combine the efforts of hundreds of volunteer researchers from around the globe, focusing on the application of computational biology and chemistry on drug discovery." (

"What would open-source drug discovery look like? As with current software collaborations, we propose a Web site where volunteers use a variety of computer programs, databases, and computing hardware. Individual pages would host tasks like searching for new protein targets, finding chemicals to attack known targets, and posting data from related chemistry and biology experiments. Volunteers could use chat rooms and bulletin boards to announce discoveries and debate future research directions. Over time, the most dedicated and proficient volunteers would become leaders." (

"Ten years ago, TDI would not have been feasible. The difference today is the vastly greater size and variety of chemical, biological, and medical databases; new software; and more powerful computers. Researchers can now identify promising protein targets and small sets of chemicals, including good lead compounds, using computation alone. For example, a SARS protein similar to mRNA cap-1 methyltransferases—a class of proteins with available inhibitors—was recently identified by scanning proteins encoded by the SARS genome against proteins of known structure. This discovery provides an important new target for future experimental validation and iterative lead optimization. More generally, existing projects such as the University of California at San Francisco's Tropical Disease Research Unit (San Francisco, California, United States) show that even relatively modest computing, chemistry, and biology resources can deliver compounds suitable for clinical trials. Increases in computing power and improved computational tools will make these methods even more powerful in the future." (

"Discoveries resulting from this research would not be patented; instead, they would be made available to so-called "virtual pharma" such as the Institute for OneWorld Health and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative for development and production, and (as possible) to the affected nations themselves for local production. TDI has not yet finalized the details of its intellectual property model; the PLoS article lists some of the options TDI is considering:

  1. A public-domain license that permits anyone to use the information for any purpose.
  1. Licenses similar to the Creative Commons Attribution License that permit anyone to use the information for any purpose, provided proper attribution is given.
  1. Licenses such as the General Public License that prohibit users from seeking intellectual property rights.
  1. Licenses that permit commercial companies to obtain and exploit patents outside the developing world. These would allow Virtual Pharma to stretch its own R&D funds by letting corporate partners sell patented products to ecotourists, governments, and other consumers living in the industrialized world."


More Information

  1. OSDD - India
  2. OSDD License