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144 comments

And who gets the patent for it? (2, Interesting)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261106)

And who gets the patent(s), money etc. for this particular protein?

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261120)

Hint: Not the player.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (3, Funny)

blue trane (110704) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261130)

He gets the #1 high score.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261154)

Top protein names are "ASS" and "POO"

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

dward90 (1813520) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261128)

If anyone from Foldit ever even met a lawyer, or uses money to pay for food, then you sign away any rights to any IP you *might* create while playing.

If I get influenza (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261150)

I don't give a rat's ass whether I have to pay the player or the company, so long as I have to pay someone. And I do.

Re:If I get influenza (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32263688)

Why would you want to pay someone if you got influenza?

Re:If I get influenza (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32264708)

Because that's how medical care works in America today

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (5, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261188)

And who gets the patent(s), money etc. for this particular protein?

I guess it's whoever spends the hundreds of millions of dollars to follow up on the infinitesimal chance that this will lead to something useful?

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (2, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261214)

research isn't that expensive.

When are people going to realize that pharmaceutical and medical research isn't that expensive?

it's infinitely more complicated than most things, but we wouldn't have the industries we have today if they were magically prohibitively expensive.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (3, Informative)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261234)

it's not expensive to run one trial.

it's expensive to run lots of trials. Spread that cost to the CDC, NIH, the WHO, various teaching hospitals, universities, pharmacos, foreign medical systems... and yes, research gets cheap per study.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (4, Interesting)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261314)

it's not expensive to run one trial.

it's expensive to run lots of trials. Spread that cost to the CDC, NIH, the WHO, various teaching hospitals, universities, pharmacos, foreign medical systems... and yes, research gets cheap per study.

Problem is, the companies spend even more money on ads then medical R&D. [sciencedaily.com]

confusion about problems and symptoms (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261988)

You're confused about the difference between problems and symptoms. Spending more money on ads then R&D is a symptom of 2 things ... first, the VC firms do much of the spending on R the major pharmaceutical companies don't get into that game until the research is done and well into the development when the medicine or device is low risk. The second is that the ads are what are required to turn a drug into a profit center. Note that money happens after the R&D is complete, so it's a completely different pool of money.

In short, you're a typical ignorant asstard. I'll bet you assume that Obamacare will make this better, by guaranteeing that there is no profit to be made after the R&D is done.

Re:confusion about problems and symptoms (2, Insightful)

complacence (214847) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262580)

so it's a completely different pool of money[,] asstard.

You're confused about that making any difference at all in a cost-benefit to society way.

To paraphrase you: "You're so stupid. The money doesn't get wasted in this place but in the other one. This is totally ok, you know, because this is a symptom of the way the system is set up, so it must be ok. That said, I'm now going to drag something completely unrelated into the discussion because I'm less interested in finding out what's right than in attacking people who don't share my unquestionable presuppositions."

The difference here probably is that your parent implied it's bad to spend money, i.e. human time and labor investment, on something that doesn't create added value, while you think it's just "frictional" costs in a system that can't be any other way.

Re:confusion about problems and symptoms (0, Troll)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263156)

I'll bet you assume that Obamacare will make this better

Okay, Internet. Listen up. From now on, the first person to use "Obama" or any term containing "Obama" in an argument loses.

Re:confusion about problems and symptoms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32263446)

Does that make you the official Obama nazi?

Godwin Invoked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32263810)

Urgh

That's right, he's 0 for 4 (0, Troll)

marcus (1916) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265000)

Anyone using Obama for support, loses.

If you want to win, better 'hope' he doesn't 'volunteer' to support you.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (2, Interesting)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262072)

Problem is, the companies spend even more money on ads then medical R&D.

That is the reality of capitalism, so depending on your point of view it's either a necessary evil, or another reason to have some sort of socialist planned economy (at least in some areas).

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32263632)

That's called a false dichotomy. You're putting forward as the only two options, total market anarchy vs. total socialism. Ideally we want capitalism but we want it regulated so that it protects the consumer. It's only when businesses compete for the benefit of the consumer that capitalism is efficient and acceptable. When you let companies run unregulated you get abusive practices, vendor lock-in, product tying, price fixing etc. The solution to this is simply to outlaw companies marketing drugs directly to consumer and outlaw any kind of kickback schemes to doctors, free vacations, free supplies, etc. The rest of the world has similar laws that prevent the market of drugs from drug companies directly to paitients. In most other countries you don't get those vapid, take this pill (that may cause drowsiness and anal leakage) commercials.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (3, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265570)

Huh, oddly enough I seem to remember that when drug companies were banned from advertising on TV their drugs still sold. So it's not really a necessary evil. Drug companies used to be hugely profitable and didn't have as large marketing budgets.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (3, Informative)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261432)

Spread that cost to the CDC, NIH, the WHO, various teaching hospitals, universities, pharmacos, foreign medical systems... and yes, research gets cheap per study.

The CDC and WHO don't fund any significant amount of research (and even if they did, the CDC budget is only something like $8 billion, WHO is under a billion), the NIH is supposed to primarily support basic research, not development (not to mention funding those universities you mentioned).

Look, it's a fairly complex industry, fixing it isn't quite as simple as "let's everyone pitch in now!".

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261584)

in so far as I understand it, research is largely decentralized to avoid things like bias and conflicts of interest.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263174)

Partly yes, but partly for the opposite reason as well: lots of entities makes it possible to play shell games. There are a lot of biochem profs who have biotech companies on the side, and you might not be surprised that what often happens is that 90% of the research is done in academia on grant funding, and then the last 10% migrates to their startup, which patents the result.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

Kirijini (214824) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261264)

we wouldn't have the industries we have today if they were magically prohibitively expensive.

Unless they were prohibitively expensive except for the profits gained from patents.

The patent system as it exists now might be screwed up and inefficient. But that doesn't defeat the truth that a patent system can shape market behavior in a way that's beneficial to us in the long run.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261300)

You mean shape the market. We can't tell for sure that it's beneficial, but we can tell for sure that places with more lax "intellectual property" laws tend to have higher rates of innovation.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (4, Informative)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261336)

Research isn't, research and development is. (research can be pretty expensive, too).

And we do have exactly the industry that we do - that is, everybody chasing blockbusters, the glut of "me-too" drugs, the paltry number of drugs actually making it to market - because it is prohibitively expensive.

The current model seems to be for giant pharma companies to more or less indiscriminately buy up small biotechs, hoping to randomly strike gold with one of them. This does not lead to a very efficient system: I think we are up to $100+ billion spent on research annually ($70B from industry, $30B from the NIH) for a grand total of 26 new drugs approved last year.

So yeah, 'prohibitively' is exactly the right word.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262278)

Please now quote me the sum spent on advertising for the same year.

Kthanks.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263542)

It's possible for R&D to be phenomenally expensive, and yet be out stripped by advertising.

You're not going to find anyone here defending pharma's ad budget, but that doesn't make research any less expensive.

Lets say pharma reduced their ad budget by more than half and spent it on R&D (and we all know that the only thing you need to invent something is money...)

That would add what, another dozen drugs, half of which would be viagra plus, and the other half would reduce cholesterol slightly, but not as much as the existing drugs on the market.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32264588)

Yes, heaven forbid we demand that the drug makers do their job of making drugs rather then converting into marketing companies that happen to sell drugs. Sure, complain about the marginal nature of their output, but that's what they do.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265530)

They do both. They wouldn't spend the money on ads if ads didn't have a return on investment, and they wouldn't spend money on R&D if R&D didn't have a return on investment.

If they spent less money on advertising, they probably wouldn't spend a dime more on R&D. They'd just pay it out in dividends, or use it to buy up biotechs or whatever. They'd also make a lot less money which would lead to more consolidation which would lead to higher prices due to less competition.

Complaining about drug industry ad spending is kind of like complaining about the CEO of a pharma company beating his wife. Sure, it is a problem that should be solved, but it isn't like solving that problem is going to do anything to fix the cost of development.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265282)

For the sake of argument, let's say the industry spent 10 times more on advertising than research. If we're taking gp's numbers as true, industry spent $70 billion on research, NIH spent $30 billion. Industry also spent $700 billion on advertising, per our argument assumption.

Without that $700 billion being spent on advertising, the $70 billion wouldn't have been spent on research (you can't make money if you don't sell your product).

That would also be $700 billion gone from the economy, which would have gone to ad channels (magazines, google), ad meetups (hotels, conference centers), doctors (kickbacks, fancy dinners), the government (taxes), etc.

What would you gain if the pharma industry stopped advertising and stopped selling any products? Bottom line is you'd be left with less than 1/2 of the current national research budget. Do you just hope the government would triple their research budget or something?

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (2, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262904)

Try comparing R&D expenses to their marketing expenses. R&D doesn't look that expensive anymore.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265614)

I dunno. The point under debate was whether the cost of R&D justifies the award of patents.

You seem to be suggesting that we can get rid of patents and then companies can fund R&D with their ad budgets.

What would really happen is that companies would stop both advertising and R&D without the patents. They wouldn't be making much money selling drugs, so why would they spend much money on either?

If anything you'd see an end to R&D long before an end to advertising without patents. How much R&D money gets spent annually on aspirin (a non-patented drug), and how much gets spent on advertising? The world of unpatented treatments has a MUCH higher ratio of advertising to research than the patented world.

If you don't like drug advertising spending, maybe the solution is to educate people to not just buy whatever the TV tells them to. Maybe we can try to get people to stop taking antibiotics for the cold while we're at it. :)

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (2, Interesting)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262172)

Someone in the industry told me that it consists of immense up-front investments before a new drug is approved, which may then pay of tenfold in the remaining years until the patent runs out - or turn out to be a complete loss, if the studies are inconclusive or the substance is not safe in humans.

Supposedly it's like playing poker with the company deciding to invest hundreds of millions more or abandon the research they've done so far.

(Which doesn't include the money the company loses on lawsuits if they *really* fuck it up. TeGenero went bust the same year after their ill-fated TGN1412 study, and Bayer needed years to recover from the Lipobay disaster.)

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (0, Redundant)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262814)

And yet they still manage to spend more on advertising than R&D.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263638)

If your business plan consisted of making a series of long-shot bets, wouldn't you want people to know about the one that paid off?

That may sound crass, but think of it this way. A company has 1000 novel active ingredients, 900 of which drop out after spending $10,000 on each, 50 more drop out after spending an additional $100,000 each. 30 more drop out after spending $1,000,000 each, 15 more after further investment of $5,000,000. Then you patent. Then you go to clinical trials. Then you take 5 years and spend $20,000,000 on each compound, and find one is worth while.

Wouldn't you fire up the marketing machine to make sure that the people making the purchasing decisions know that your new drug exists? You've only got 9 years to recoup your investment before the generics eat your lunch. You don't have time to wait around for word of mouth to spread.

I've got real issues with pharma's marketing budget - but it's not like they're behaving irrationally.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265652)

Agreed. And if they didn't spend the money on marketing it isn't like they would spend it on R&D instead. Drug companies all have cash sitting around that they aren't spending on anything, or that they're returning to investors.

There really isn't much innovation in the area of clinical trials, but there is a LOT of cost. That is why there are so few new drugs on the market, and why they are so expensive. It is also why so few serious clinical trials get done in the area of things like supplements, when they could have a big impact on public health.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265328)

Depends on the research. If your medical research involves human subjects and imaging it's expensive. If it just involves human subjects it depends what you're doing to them.

Note that we have lots of other industries that have a very high cost of entry, yet exist anyway. Communications satellites, for instance. Or microprocessor fabrication.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261730)

I guess it's whoever spends the hundreds of millions of dollars to follow up on the infinitesimal chance that this will lead to something useful?

This is an entirely sensible approach to patents in this case. Therefore we can be absolutely sure that will not happen, at least not for those reasons.

Likelier answer: whoever spends the most on lawyers. May or may not be the same people who prove it's useful.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (4, Interesting)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261304)

http://fold.it/portal/node/267249 [fold.it]

"""Foldit project was initiated with the goal of democratizing science, and we stand behind that. the process of discovery and the eventual results of game play will all be open domain.

"""

Not sure if that claim is backed up by legal documents. The game is suspiciously vague in legal matters. No software license. No EULA. Nothing about patents.

Or perhaps there is, but not released to the public.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32262438)

Far from democratic. The FoldIt admins still determine which structure to refine.
Let us submit our own structures and work on them on our own (observable from the public of course), please!

http://fold.it/portal/node/267249 [fold.it]

"""Foldit project was initiated with the goal of democratizing science, and we stand behind that. the process of discovery and the eventual results of game play will all be open domain.

"""

Not sure if that claim is backed up by legal documents. The game is suspiciously vague in legal matters. No software license. No EULA. Nothing about patents.

Or perhaps there is, but not released to the public.

Re:And who gets the patent for it? (1)

openfrog (897716) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265164)

Foldit project was initiated with the goal of democratizing science, and we stand behind that. the process of discovery and the eventual results of game play will all be open domain.

It is relevant to note that there is no document in precise legal language, but in the absence of such, the sentence you quote IS legally binding.

So... what's the user win? (3, Interesting)

Shag (3737) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261114)

Just wondering. Is there a "prize?" Like getting the first dose of whatever-it-turns-into?

Re:So... what's the user win? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261132)

Its crowd-sourced research made into a pseudo-game.
Has that EVER given out prizes?

Re:So... what's the user win? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261202)

Coincidentally, that's also the punishment for the loser.

Re:So... what's the user win? (1)

Web Goddess (133348) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261274)

Congratulations! YOu have won the honor of testing our first dose of the medicine. What, you don't want the prize? Should have read the fine print...

Re:So... what's the user win? (1)

m.alessandrini (1587467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261620)

I think the prize can just be having discovered something that might save your life later.

Re:So... what's the user win? (1)

qbast (1265706) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261776)

... but you can't afford it because some company grabbed a patent and there are no generics.

Re:So... what's the user win? (1)

m.alessandrini (1587467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261800)

Nice point. I read something about the foldit game, but I cannot understand the legal issues behind it. But I really HOPE that, being a community-driven development, its results shall be used in a more "noble" way than the usual market logic. But maybe I'm just too optimistic...

Re:So... what's the user win? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262772)

Quick someone tell me the difference between a life-saving drug with a prohibitively high price for ~10 years and no drug at all at any price...

Re:So... what's the user win? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32263204)

One of them doesn't stop poor people dying.

The other one doesn't stop poor people dying?

Re:So... what's the user win? (1)

techhead79 (1517299) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263780)

There is this belief by many that scientific advancement does not depend on an individual. Many advancements were done in parallel in the past by multiple people all over the planet. The belief that only one company is working on a given solution is somewhat absurd. The point is someone somewhere would have come to the same conclusion.

In the end scientific advancement belongs to society, not an individual or a company. Just because you do a lot of the work it does not mean you truly own the idea. The idea would not be possible if it wasn't for countless other advancements. As such, returning the idea to the public domain is your repayment for all the training and countless other ideals you would not have even considered if it wasn't for society in the first place.

I think it's important for everyone to accept this and to believe that patents are only to reward those that have achieved a breakthrough in order to help fund their next breakthrough...not so they can sit in their pool every weekday afternoon and have back rubs by nude chinese women...

Pauling and Vitamin C (1, Interesting)

rs79 (71822) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263860)

Go look at the literature. Pauling showed that the mechanism virii use to transport glucose also transport C and that very high doses of C (100G/d IV) kill virii and do not harm the patient.

This represented a significant threat to big pharma who then spent the rest of his life "discrediting" him by doing stupid shit like giving *oral* doses of C, finding it didn't work they calling him a quack.

You'll notice, if you look hard enough they were able to reverse polio in the 50s with this technique that supposedly works on *any* virus.

Don't even mention quackwatch.com - it's funded by big pharma.

Pauling is the only guy that ever got two nobel prizes in two different areas unshared.

Don't believe me, go look at what he did and the troubles he had and follow the money.

Re:Pauling and Vitamin C (2, Insightful)

Darth Hamsy (1432187) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263996)

Go look at the literature. Pauling showed that the mechanism virii use

Viruses, viruses, viruses. Virii is not the plural of virus.

I am Legend. (1)

CatNTHat (9640) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261178)

Isn't this how the premise for I am legend [imdb.com] came about?

Re:I am Legend. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261194)

What ever happened to zombie lust for brains? Lately it's been declared too camp for the horror genre. Kinda like vampires turning into bats was previously.

BBBRAAAAAAIIIINNNSSSS!!!

Re:I am Legend. (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261326)

Kinda like vampires turning into bats was previously.

Yeah, now vampires don't turn into anything. They just get to be sparkly. [thefastertimes.com]

Re:I am Legend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261342)

What ever happened to zombie lust for brains?

Directors realized that the movies would be implausible - zombies would starve to death in the rural areas those movies typically are set in. Maybe they could have them crave Confederate flags and diyup instead.

Re:I am Legend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261458)

Who the f said monsters have to starve to death or monster movies have to be plausible??!?

Re:I am Legend. (1)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261468)

No, the premise was "let's see if we can stuff with The Omega Man like we did I, Robot".

Re:I am Legend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32262830)

Gaaah!

Both the mentioned film and The Omega Man were based on Richard Matheson's book I Am Legend.

"Stuff with The Omega Man", indeed.

Re:I am Legend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261606)

Yes. I think we should stop immediately and ask Will Smith what to do.

Re:I am Legend. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263902)

In the original short story, it was a disease that blew in on the wind.

So the premise for the modern movie probably came about by twisting that into something that played on modern fears.

Re:I am Legend. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#32264872)

In the original short story, it was a naturally occurring disease that blew in on the wind.
So the premise for the modern movie probably came about by twisting that into something that played on modern fears.

I know you knew that, but, I just wanted to emphasize the boldface point since Sci-Fi lately has become all about humanity=evil, everything else=good.

*sigh* (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261230)

If it is a useful protein, the patent will go to whoever owns the lab. The player and discoverer will be quietly shooed away. You'll see a slashdot article titled "foldit player sues lab" in 8 months. Then you'll never hear about it again.

Re:*sigh* (4, Insightful)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261280)

So... you're saying the work of studying proteins for years, coming up with the game idea, creating and distributing the software, is all nothing, in comparison to the guy who downloaded a program and clicked some buttons? I think the notion of "discovery" is pretty fuzzy in a lot of cases, but you're crazy if you think the player deserves MORE credit than the software authors here.

Re:*sigh* (4, Insightful)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262010)

Or the people who synthesize the protein, test that it folds the right way, test it in vitro, test it in animals, perform phase 0, 1, 2 and 3 human trials. You know, the actually finding out if it can be used as a drug. Coming up with a drug candidate is the easy and cheap part of making a new drug.

Re:*sigh* (1)

openfrog (897716) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265554)

So... you're saying the work of studying proteins for years, coming up with the game idea, creating and distributing the software, is all nothing, in comparison to the guy who downloaded a program and clicked some buttons? I think the notion of "discovery" is pretty fuzzy in a lot of cases, but you're crazy if you think the player deserves MORE credit than the software authors here.

Or the people who synthesize the protein, test that it folds the right way, test it in vitro, test it in animals, perform phase 0, 1, 2 and 3 human trials. You know, the actually finding out if it can be used as a drug. Coming up with a drug candidate is the easy and cheap part of making a new drug.

The authors developed the game so they could leverage public contributions in a manner that would not have been affordable otherwise. In this equation, you don't only have to take account of the individual successful contribution. The project initiators actually gave a thought to the question raised here:

Foldit project was initiated with the goal of democratizing science, and we stand behind that. the process of discovery and the eventual results of game play will all be open domain.

Re:*sigh* (0)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262472)

So... you're saying mathematics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, the development of the first and all subsequent operating systems leading up to the one used for the game, the development of all programming languages leading up to the development of the language used for the game , is all nothing, in comparison to the work of studying proteins for years, coming up with the game idea, creating and distributing the software? I think the notion of "discovery" is pretty fuzzy in a lot of cases, but you're crazy if you think the software authors deserve MORE credit than the platform developers here.

There, twisted your meaning all around for you.

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32262774)

*golf clap* +1 internets for you, sir.

Also, it's stupid to say that the "gamer" has no meaningful intervention: the whole game itself is based on the fact that protein structure prediction is a hard problem for basic trial-and-error exploration of the phase space AND the fact that humans can use their "puzzle-solving intuitions" [sic] to make shortcuts in the generation of a structure prediction.

Erm... if the human input WASN'T important/helpful, why bother using this game/software for anything serious?

Re:*sigh* (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#32264736)

You didn't twist anything, you just extended further the same point that I made. Of course each of the involved parties deserves some credit. The point is that singling out ONE of them as the sole discoverer makes no sense, especially if you're saying the sole discoverer is the player, the one involved party who did not actually create anything. Giving recognition to the platform developers would probably be unduly difficult, since there are tens of thousands of them, including, say, Von Neumann and Turing.

You have to draw a line for recognition somewhere. If you want to include every CPU manufacturing tech and kernel hacker that's ever lived, go ahead. My selection criteria are a little tighter than that, but we're just at different points on the same spectrum. The other extreme is giving 100% credit to the player, and that is simply nonsensical.

Oh, and I think I'll credit myself for your post, since you couldn't have made it without mine.

This still existed? (1)

esten (1024885) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261382)

I heard about this when it was first announced and cannot believe it still exists/people are still playing this "game"

Anyway this is probably more of a PR smoke then an actual discovery. Drug companies burn through lots of computer time to find potential drug targets most of which do not work. I would expect that a protein (much larger and more complicated then developed drugs) would make the likelihood of its synthesis and folding into the desired structure even less likely to work.

Perspective (1)

estitabarnak (654060) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261404)

Influenza is a fickle virus, able to alter its hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins very quickly. Although the link is very light on details, it sounds like they're hoping for a hemagglutinin-binding protein. While this would be a "proof of concept" for the usefulness of Foldit, don't hold your breath on this being any sort of flu cure.

Re:Perspective (1)

aiht (1017790) | more than 3 years ago | (#32261692)

... don't hold your breath on this being any sort of flu cure.

Instead, hold your breath because this isn't any sort of flu cure.
And the guy next to you on the train just sneezed.

Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32261598)

Surely it is amazing that this is the first time?
With the number of people contributing to Folding@Home etc I would have thought that something like this would have happened long ago.

Re: Anonymous Coward. (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262118)

Surely it is amazing that this is the first time?

With the number of people contributing to Folding@Home etc I would have thought that something like this would have happened long ago.

You need an infinite number of monkeys typing to ensure that one of them produces the complete works of Shakespeare.

Re: Anonymous Coward. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32262456)

Otherwise you might just end up with a King... A Stephen King... The Tommyknockers... In Dutch.

Re: Anonymous Coward. (1)

kasimbaba (1813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262514)

You need an infinite number of monkeys typing to ensure that one of them produces the complete works of Shakespeare.

If you have an infinite number of monkeys typing, then you'll get an infinite number of monkeys producing the complete works of Shakespear, not just one. If you make the effort, you can actually calculate the number of monkeys required to have a certain probability of getting at least one monkey to produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Each additional monkey will add to the probability of success.

Re: Anonymous Coward. (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263696)

Infinite * infinitesimal does not necessarily equal infinite.

You could get an infinite number of copies of Shakespeare, a finite number of copies, or zero copies.

Re: Anonymous Coward. (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265062)

With the number of people contributing to Folding@Home etc I would have thought that something like this would have happened long ago.

Folding@Home is simulating the process of protein folding, not trying to guess the final structure. In fact, the F@H researchers already know the final structure - that's why they chose those proteins, because they're well-studied and experimentally tractable. FoldIt, on the other hand, isn't trying to present a physically accurate depiction of the process, it's just a way to guess what the folded protein will look like using as little CPU time as possible.

FoldIT? Open IT! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32262340)

FoldIT is not only closed source software, but also closed as an application. It's the best application to remodel and fix up protein structures out there; yet it is not available to use it on your own protein structures.

The groups behind it are research groups and of course with it being their own 'product' they are not forced to sell it or give it away, but they are still sitting on it, although many molecular biologists could benefit from its availability as a professional remodeling tool. When emailing the developing group about possibilites to use it for redesigning parts of my own protein structure and paying for the program, I was only told that there are no plans to allow that. In my opinion this is bad science, because there is no way to duplicate any of it, without a massive development effort.

Some people are just very good at this (5, Interesting)

Xoc-S (645831) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262404)

I played fold.it for a few months a year and half ago. I was better than most at it, but there was one guy who almost always got the best score on every protein he worked on. He was a mutant at it; the Michael Jordan of protein folding. I joked that it was like The Last Starfighter [imdb.com] , he was being selected for being taken off planet by the aliens who developed the game. He had a way of identifying parts of a protein that could be modified to improve it. By studying people like him...on what they see that nobody else does, can lead to improved automated algorithms, which can lead to significant improvements in medicines.

Finding optimal folds of proteins is an NP-Hard [wikipedia.org] problem [springerlink.com], so having any heuristic algorithm improvements can vastly increase the chance of having automated tools find useful folds in reasonable amounts of time.

Alterataive to fold it (1)

slashnot007 (576103) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265526)

If you don't want to play the game but do want to help protein research then there are a couple of ways you can donate some of your unused computer time to researchers in this field. The newest way about to come on-line is a project by Dr. Charlie Strauss at Los Alamos National Lab. He is in the process of setting up a distributed grid of volunteer computers from folks who want to donate cycles on their (intel) mac computers to protein design. It's not online yet but you already have the software installed on your mac. it's part of the mac-OS and it's called xgrid and it's in your sharing preferences. If you have a mac, with a multi-core intel CPU and want to donate some of your underutilized computing power then write to him at cems (at) lanl.gov with the subject line "Joining the Xgrid" for details. He's working on replacements for antibodies and enzymes that can digest wood waste into bio-fuels.

If you have never heard of Xgrid, it's a descendant of the ZILLA project that ran on NeXT computers. One of the earliest volunteer grids. Zilla is credited with pivotal exploration of the 4 color map theorem proof and foundational work in big-computing CGI.

Useful, but dangerous? (-1, Redundant)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 3 years ago | (#32262618)

Proteins are the building blocks for life, but they can also be the cause of its destruction... Although at first it may seem good, what about this thing is really bad and causes some strange and unknown disease? I hope there will be thorough testing before this synthetic thing is used on humans. Didn't RTFA, as usual...

Funniest part (0)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263154)

The funniest part is people assuming this will end up being a cure. Big Pharma has no interest in cures, just mildly effective maintenance drugs one has to keep purchasing in perpetuity.

Re:Funniest part (1)

bro1 (143618) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263502)

The funniest part is people assuming this will end up being a cure. Big Pharma has no interest in cures, just mildly effective maintenance drugs one has to keep purchasing in perpetuity.

There is enough deseases in the world to stay in business once you eradicate one or two diseases. In the meanwhile - finding a full cure for anything gives you an exclusive access to a metaphorical gold mine.

Re:Funniest part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32263558)

Thanks, I was in need of a good eye-roll.

Re:Funniest part (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#32263582)

I hear this all the time, and it doesn't make sense.

If I'm Pfizer, sure, I have no interest in curing erectile dysfunction - I make a killing on Viagra.

If I'm GlaxoSmithKlein, I'm doing everything I can to cure it, because that would take away a profit center for my competitor.

Re:Funniest part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32264124)

...or, GSK could just make a me-too drug based off of the work that Pfizer did and be pretty certain about stealing a portion of the overall market. That way you don't really rock the boat but both companies end up making tons of money.

You don't really think those companies are competitors, do you? If they were, why would they be sponsoring the same industry groups and lobbying efforts? True competitors are in a zero sum situation. These guys are better off when they share the wealth (amongst themselves).

Re:Funniest part (1)

boxwood (1742976) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265392)

True competitors are in a zero sum situation.

When you're running a company you're trying to maximise your profits. You're not going to go out of your way to damage a competitor's profits. if you can damage your competitor's revenue to the point that you force them out of business then their patents would go to auction and you'd have to bid against others for them. Really it would be much more sensible to just merge with your competitor, or make a deal to buy or license the patents you need.

Spending a lot of money to damage your competitor is just cutting into your own profits, which is stupid, and goes against the whole idea of the free market system.

This isn't really a case of big pharma not behaving as good capitalists. This is a case of market failure. The market provides more incentives to produce treatments while not providing incentives for producing cures. Capitalism just doesn't do R&D in the best interests of humanity.

Re:Funniest part (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 3 years ago | (#32264798)

The funniest part is people assuming this will end up being a cure. Big Pharma has no interest in cures, just mildly effective maintenance drugs one has to keep purchasing in perpetuity.

Put down the bong and learn a little about how the real world works. Big Pharma only has a very limited monopoly on selling drugs. If and when the FDA finally approves it, they've only got maybe a decade and a bit left on the patent to make as much money as possible before dozens of generics in Third World countries start churning out copies at a fraction of the cost. (Heck, many of them don't even wait until the patent has expired.) How much more do you think a cure for influenza is worth than a "mildly effective maintenance drug"? It's certainly worth a lot more to me. Every government in the world that can afford it will be scrambling to buy it, which is probably several billion dollars in sales alone. If it's really the first and only cure on the market, they barely need to advertise, because every news outlet in the country will be screaming "FLU CURED". They will spend a decade basking in public appreciation and be remembered as "the company that cured the flu". I think this is probably worth many billions more than the potential of 50 years competing with cheap generics.

There is a more practical consideration, which is that patents have to be published, so if they really went out of their way to fuck up the cure to make it less effective for no other reason than long-term profit (which, again, does not exist), not only will someone else figure out the real cure eventually, the company looks like a bunch of assholes, more so than normal.

That said, I also doubt this is going to end up being a cure, simply because I have very limited faith in computational drug design, just like everyone else who's spent any time at all doing experimental biochemistry.

Re:Funniest part (1)

boxwood (1742976) | more than 3 years ago | (#32265512)

no a treatment is more profitable because when the patent runs out you can make a small variation on it and get a new patent. Bribe doctors to prescribe the "new and improved" version and you can keep making profit of the same disease for many decades.

If they come out with a cure, well sure they make a profit that one time off of it, but once they wipe out the disease they can no longer make profit off of it. Yeah they get good PR, but what the hell good is that going to do when there isn't any need for their product anymore?

See each disease is has its own market of people that have that disease. You cure the disease then that market is gone forever. If you only treat that disease you can continue developing new products for that market forever.

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