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Crowdsourcing the Discovery of New Antibiotics 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-red-pill dept.
First time accepted submitter Josiah Zayner writes "Katie Drummond at The Verge reports that 'the Infectious Diseases Society of America warned that the pipeline of new antibiotics was "on life support," with only seven drugs in advanced stages of development to treat multidrug-resistant gram-negative superbugs. That's in part because, unlike drugs prescribed to treat chronic conditions, antibiotics are only taken for a few days or weeks at a time — meaning they're less profitable for pharmaceutical companies.' Dr. Josiah Zayner, a synthetic biology fellow at NASA, and Dr. Mark Opal, a neurobiologist and drug development specialist have started an Indiegogo campaign: The ILIAD Project. ILIAD stands for the International Laboratory for Identification of Antibacterial Drugs. Contributors to the project will receive Science kits with all the materials needed for testing environmental samples, such as plants, insects, and bacteria, for antibiotic properties. The information will then be documented in Open manner on Wiki-style website to create the first Massively Multi-Scientist Open Experiment."
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Crowdsourcing the Discovery of New Antibiotics

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  • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday December 02, 2013 @07:46PM (#45579647)

    Prize money. Put up a $5 billion prize for the first company to get past the FDA.

    Of course, this will provide an incentive for them to hide bad long-term results, but hey, we have a little of that now and decent systems in place to deal with it. Pay out only partially with full payment after 5 years of use or something if you really want to.

  • Mathematical model (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday December 02, 2013 @08:33PM (#45579947) Homepage Journal

    Say, asking from the general public a portion of their wages in exchange for an investment into such research.

    Let's construct a mathematical model(*).

    Define a block and call it "the public". Note that this block consists many little blocks, each representing an individual member of the public.

    Define another block and call it "medical services". This block also consists of lots of little blocks, but somewhat fewer than the "public" blocks since 1 hospital will serve more than one person &c.

    Draw arrows representing the flow money from the "public" block to the "medical" block. We can construct the arrows any way we want - each arrow can be an "average" consumer, or we can have a range of consumers, or we can mirror the actual population one-for-one. Bundle the arrows into a flow or "river" that represents the money going from the public to the medical services.

    Now place a block in the middle of that flow, between the consumers and the services. Call this block "the corporation".

    From a games-theory point of view, the goal of the corporation is to divert as much of the money stream as possible into its own coffers. If the diverted money optional, then the company has to compete for the streams: it has to provide a service which the public thinks is worth the amount of money diverted.

    If the diverted money is not optional, then the corporation need not supply any benefit or services. Indeed, the corporation benefits by increasing the input money flow to the maximum amount that the system can handle, and reducing the output money flow to the minimum amount the system can tolerate.

    I'm happy to support legislation/regulation that will solve a problem. Can you find a solution where the players have incentive to provide the best value... for the public?

    (*) Wildly simplistic for illustration, but the trends are overwhelming: accurate refinements will show the same result.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:14PM (#45580177)

    Why are you (and TFA) both assuming that the market is wrong and that finding new antibotics is more important than the value placed upon it by companies in a position to do it? You have this intuition that it is important, and some rationale that cannot be tested because it involves some speculation about the future need for new antibiotics. If you are right then it will prove very profitable to own the new antibiotic in time to save the day so you ought start a company or invest in one that is doing antibiotic discovery, but you won't put your money where your mouth is. Perhaps you have no money to back up your ideas and it turns out no one care about your opinion. It doesn't take a libertarian. Any middle of the road moderate can look at the current system and conclude it is probably working just fine. If you want to second guess the market with your money, fine, but second guessing the market with public money is almost always a waste. Drug resistant infection is pretty uncommon and the media scare is out of proportion with the danger, which is why your intuition is probably wrong. As it becomes more common the incentive to compete for last line of defense high cost antibiotic treatments will increase and they will be brought to market. Moreover, undiscovered antibiotics are probably better left undiscovered until we learn our lesson about wasting them on livestock. An example of a market based solution to that problem is a new antibiotic can be remitted a small royalty in exchange for excluding it from use in certain markets. Normally that would be viewed as an illegal trust, but a regulatory framework could be put together to provide an incentive to hold last line of defense antibiotics in reserve. Government might have a role to play in solving this problem, but that role should be in aligning incentives with the public good rather than trying to directly serve the public good.

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.