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Open Source in Drug Industry #Healthcare

Dr  B..EKBAL

 

The way in which intellectual property rights are being applied to research nowadays has created numerous encumbrances to furthering the research boundaries in Medicinal chemistry. This has resulted in making it a necessity to patent new drugs that are manufactured, introduced and distributed in the market. So to overcome these hurdles newer indigenous ways or methods are being designed world over to overcome this lacuna. Presently market capitalization is the driving mechanism which is the new world order in the field of research. Due to this method of research that is prevalent it is nearly impossible for the poorer strata of our society to access these drugs as the multinational companies have cornered a major share in the drug market. This has led to cost escalation of life saving drugs which is a stumbling block to carry out research so as to be able to bring down the cost of these life saving drugs. All this is a fall out of the prevalent patent laws that gives a near monopoly in manufacturing those drugs to the multinational companies. This leads to an inflated subsidy bill for all the governments of developing nations that try to make it possible for the poor people to access these essential drugs for their mere survival. This leads to a road block in the treatment of neglected diseases that are prevalent in developing countries.
It is in this background that newer methods and ways in pharmaceutical research have been conceived by drawing inspiration from Open Source Software movement. This in turn has led to a people’s movement in the field of pharmaceutical research. This has been made possible by replacing the Private Software Copy Right with the General Public License or Copy Left that was introduced by Richard Mathew Stallman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) computer department. This has made it possible to develop new knowledge and has given the right to make modifications so as to improve it without any hindrances of the prevalent copy right law.
Private Software does not allow you to share your knowledge with others. Also the Source Code is not made available to you and as a result of this you cannot make any modifications to the software.  With the General Public Licence not only is the Source Code made available to you, but you can also share the software with others and make copies of the software. The motto or the tag line of General Public License is to share and collaborate with others.
The fundamental basis has been formulated and laid down in the form of a Creative Commons by a Stanford professor of the department of law by the name Lawrence Lessig. The primary aim of introducing the Creative Commons was to publish the creative works of a person, to acknowledge him appropriately and to enable people having a genuine interest in a relevant area to make use of it in such a way that no profit is generated out of it. Through the Creative Commons the author is given a chance for distributing his work and through this way making it available to the public at large.
Creative Commons is the basis of the frame work of OSDD (Open Source Drug Discovery) that is being followed in many countries world over. Anybody who is interested in Medicinal chemistry research can make contributions in whatever way possible through sharing and collaboration which is the basic underlying principle that OSDD follows piously. The main aim of this consortium is to find newer drug able molecules for diseases that have been neglected by the multinational companies.
In India also OSDD has been started under the aegis of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The first and foremost area of research of OSDD is to discover newer drug able molecules for Tuberculosis. The major health issue that most of the developing countries are facing is the prevalent character of tuberculosis. But the main issue at hand is the lack of discovery of newer drug able molecules since 1980 by the multinational companies that have a strangle hold over this area of research. Also tuberculosis bacterium has been found to be resistant to the present drugs available in the market.  With the advent of AIDS even developed nations such as USA have seen the tuberculosis disease make a comeback. Studies have proven that an AIDS patient is more susceptible to tuberculosis and if an AIDS patient contracts tuberculosis it is found that the drugs that are available in the market are ineffective in treating such patients. In India every three minutes two people die of tuberculosis. With all this said the multinational companies are least bothered in developing newer drugs to take on the newer resistant forms of the tuberculosis bacteria. It is in this back drop that CSIR through OSDD which is a social and community collaboration with the human community at large to take on this ardours endeavour in discovering newer drugs in the treatment of tuberculosis. Already around 4500 scientists and technocrats are involved in this collaborative research. Everybody who takes part in this collaborative research as well as institutions are either monetarily rewarded or are acknowledged by CSIR.
After the first phase of the research of finding the pharmacophore is finished, the requisite reward is given and in the next stage, CSIR would then collaborate with other institutions to carry out human testing. Once the drug is synthesised, CSIR would apply for the patent. Then the licence required for drug manufacturing would be given by CSIR to firms that are willing to manufacture low cost generic drugs. The point to be noted is that, CSIR would not given the license to only one firm but to a number of firms so as to prevent a particular company from garnering the whole market share.  The generation of knowledge by complying with the patent laws through collaborative research, by which drugs are developed economically in such a way that it would be affordable to the whole of humanity without any income barriers. This is what OSDD has achieved to do in a short span of time by being a model to others.

All these enlightening research activities are a glimmer of hope to the poor tuberculosis patients of not only our country but of the human community at large. Just like Open Source Software in the computer field, the problems of copy right have been overcome in the field of pharmaceutical research. Under the aegis of CSIR this new consortium would make certain tremors felt in the field of medicinal research as well as in the prevalent drug market. The discovery of a new drug for tuberculosis is the foremost task at hand. The policy of OSDD is to make available drugs at an affordable cost to all without any barriers through a collaborative research with the community at large. 

 

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