The open sharing of research is being increasingly recognised as a driver of innovation in biomedical research. Many funding agencies now mandate the open sharing of project-related data, and most pharmaceutical companies are engaged in substantial “open innovation” programs.
Inspired by radical initiatives in software development, we have demonstrated the logical extension of such ideas to “open source drug discovery" in which all data and ideas are shared in real time, anyone can participate and no patent protection is sought.
The pilot project with the World Health Organisation involved creating an improved version of the world’s most widely used antiparasitic drug, praziquantel. More recently we created a consortium committed to secret-free drug discovery, Open Source Malaria, to which scientists have contributed from the private and public sectors, ranging from academics to school students. Related efforts are exploring potential new treatments for other major diseases such as tuberculosis and mycetoma, again with all work taking place in the public domain and disclosed in real time.
It is still the case that no drug has ever reached the market using this approach. The lack of any precedence means there is hesitation from funders to invest on a large scale. In part to address this we have recently argued for the expansion of such an approach to full-scale drug development as a competing model for the traditional pharmaceutical industry, Open Source Pharma. This idea will be outlined, as will the major scientific and software needs of this growing community.
Mat Todd was born in Manchester, England. He obtained his PhD in organic chemistry from Cambridge University in 1999, was a Wellcome Trust postdoc at The University of California, Berkeley, a college fellow back at Cambridge University, a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London and since 2005 has been at the School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney where he is Associate Professor.
Mat has a significant interest in open science, and how it may be used to accelerate research, with particular emphasis on open source discovery of new medicines. He founded and currently leads the Open Source Malaria (OSM) and Open Source TB (OSTB) consortia, and is a founder of a broader Open Source Pharma movement. In 2011 he was awarded a NSW Scientist of the Year award in the Emerging Research category for his work in open science and in 2012 the OSM consortium was awarded one of three Wellcome Trust/Google/PLoS Accelerating Science Awards.
His research interests include the development of new ways to make molecules, particularly how to make chiral molecules with new catalysts. He is also interested in making metal complexes that do unusual things when they meet biological molecules or metal ions. His lab motto is "To make the right molecule in the right place at the right time", and his students are currently trying to work out what this means.