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Biology Goes Open Source 100

cford writes "According to Forbes some of the drug company giants are finally realizing that their genetic research is worth more if they give it away. 'Novartis, the Basel, Switzerland, drug giant, has helped uncover which of the 20,000 genes identified by the Human Genome Project are likely to be associated with diabetes. But rather than hoard this information, as drug firms have traditionally done, it is making it available for free on the World Wide Web. "It will take the entire world to interpret these data," says Novartis research head Mark Fishman. "We figure we will benefit more by having a lot of companies look at these data than by holding it secret."'"
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Biology Goes Open Source

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  • What do you know (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jack Malmostoso ( 899729 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:09PM (#17987302)
    Maybe evil corporations are not that evil after all. Nah, can't be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:22PM (#17987456)
    If people are wondering how much computing power we can possibly need..

    The answer is we can never have enough. To cure many of our worst diseases we will need to simulate molecular interactions on the nanoscale and determine how to safely fix what goes wrong. That requires an unbelievable amount of computing power.
  • Re:What do you know (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Thusi02 ( 998416 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:23PM (#17987476) Homepage Journal
    Wow this is quite the interesting decision that this private sector company has decided to do. This could truly help us in the battle of deciphering the human genome. So far what it has been is that the public sectors as soon as they get a new finding need to publish them asap. Where as the private sectors can make use of these public sector's findings to make it more profitable to them by combining it with their own research. Now that everyone is in the same boat and we have combined forces, we can surely understand ourselves better and perhaps find cures to diseases such as Diabetes or any other diseases that are caused at the genetic level. Can't wait to see what this will lead to.

    Thusjanthan Kubendranathan
  • by gavink42 ( 1000674 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:36PM (#17987644)
    This is exactly how it should be for all the other nasty diseases we humans suffer from. Cancer, HIV, etc... maybe even the common cold could be brought down some levels with enough folks with access to all the data.
  • I call BS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cinnamon colbert ( 732724 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @04:54PM (#17987914) Journal
    What this means is they can't figure out how to use the info before the patents expire. The idea that novartis or any other drug company would let loose proprietary info on a gene they thought would lead them to a drug for diabetes is ludicrous.
  • Re:Yeah, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by harvardian ( 140312 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:27PM (#17988378)
    As a clarification, this research isn't part of the Human Genome Project. It's research that uses the results from the human genome project to identify genes associated with diabetes.

    Or, in Slashdot-ese:

    Step 1: Identify all of the human genes (the HGP)
    Step 2: Find which of these genes are associated with diabetes
    Step 3: ???
    Step 4: Profit!
  • obsession with cost (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:35PM (#17988462) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand this obsession with the cost of the drugs. It is not like it is obvious how to treat AIDS for example, it definitely takes decades of research and development and it requires funds. If a company or even a person finds something that helps in this fields, I do not see any problems with them being able to charge and arm and a leg for the treatment, after all, if you do not pay the arm and the leg, you will lose both arms, both legs, the torso and the head to the disease. At the end it is irrelevant how the research gets done and how much the drugs cost, what is important is that the research gets done. And this kind of research will not get done without decades of investment effort, which will require probably thousands or tens of thousands or millions of percent of return. It's all good, in a hundred years noone will remember most of the people who died from AIDS but the treatement will be available (at that time at a very low cost, since the patents do expire after all.)

    Don't worry, it's not a problem if millions die now, they will die anyway, to have this research done means more than to lose even a billion people to a disease.
  • Why this hype? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aschoff_nodule ( 890870 ) on Monday February 12, 2007 @05:45PM (#17988650)
    This is not the first time this has happened.

    A lot of private firms have identified disease susceptibility genes. There is a company in Iceland called 'deCode' - [] which has been doing this stuff for many years now, exploiting the fact the iceland has a relatively stable and homogenous genetic population. They have genetic data available for more than 25% of the population of Iceland and they have innumerable papers and free online resources.

    Not to mention the federal govt. has been doing this forever now and 'Human Genome Project' and 'Hapmap project' are well known.
  • You are quite right when you say that patent may be good for the pharmaceutical companies, but are terrible for the rest of the world.

    In India, Novartis is using all its legal muscle to challenge a provision in the Indian patent law that has made it possible for India to develop a strong generic drugs industry. This has made affordable medicines available not only in India, but to other developing countries as well. If Novartis wins the case, this could mean that access to affordable drugs in the third world will be drastically reduced.

    There was an article at OneWorld South Asia [] about the case recently:

    The struggle for affordable medicines

    India, which amended its patent laws for TRIPS-compliance in 2005, introduced a clause to ensure that pharmaceuticals did not block the entry of low-cost generic drugs. A year ago this clause blocked Novartis' patent application for its anti-cancer drug Gleevec. Now, in a major case that will have a profound effect on the affordability of essential medicines in India, Novartis is challenging this unique Indian provision.
    If Novartis succeeds in this unprecedented challenge, India's status as the primary supplier of low-cost essential medicines to the developing world will be jeopardised.
    This marks the first time the world over that a private entity has challenged the prerogative of a country to implement the TRIPS agreement in accordance with its public health priorities. Should Novartis succeed in its challenge, it will not only mark a significant step back in the struggle for affordable medicines, but it will mark the first time that the demands of a private multinational corporation have overridden a sovereign country's right to protect the health of its people.

    So if anyone thinks of Novartis and the other big pharma companies as a bunch of good guys, he should think again.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:19PM (#18007304) Homepage Journal
    I do not see any problems with them being able to charge and arm and a leg for the treatment, after all, if you do not pay the arm and the leg, you will lose both arms, both legs, the torso and the head to the disease.

    Well, people do have a history of being upset with someone who says "Your money or your life." ;-)

    We might chalk it up to basic human irrationality. After all, there are several popular economic theories that explain to us why the companies' behavior is rational. And we all know that we're going to die anyway. What does it matter to the universe (or the economy) if you or I die today or 20 years from now? Not much, really, unless you or I is a major celebrity. But still, people irrationally insist on wanting to live longer, and they even more irrationally insist on not becoming homeless paupers in order to stay alive.

    Dunno how we can get people to behave rationally, though. Let us know if you figure out how.


Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.