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Crowdsourcing the Discovery of New Antibiotics

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the take-a-red-pill dept.

Medicine 73

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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73 comments

We need a new system (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579407)

See the failure here: They only make money when people are sick. The economics are not there to make people better. The economics are there to make a profit off as many sick people for as long as possible.

We really need to work on a new system where the profit is in healthy people not sick people.

Re:We need a new system (3, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#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.

The mod holiday continues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580451)

Why is the parent not modded up?

Obvious questions (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579457)

1. They're really going to let random people experiment with horrific, drug-resistant pathogens? If not, how else are they going to test stuff?

2. Who gets the patent, when the crowdsource does 99% of the work and PharmaCorp does the final tests of the end result?

Re:Obvious questions (2)

Josiah Zayner (3044297) | about 5 months ago | (#45579517)

1. No, we are not. Finding new antibiotics doesn't require using drug-resistant pathogens. A new class of antibiotics, if found, would theoretically target a protein or process in a drug-resistant variant that is not drug-resistant from lack of evolutionary selection.

2. That is a big problem and something hard to deal with. From my knowledge current US patent laws are first to file not first to discovery. So either you collect results and don't make them accessible to anyone or you collect results and make them open and hope that they are used to help people.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579601)

2. That is a big problem and something hard to deal with. From my knowledge current US patent laws are first to file not first to discovery. So either you collect results and don't make them accessible to anyone or you collect results and make them open and hope that they are used to help people.

Not really. Publish your results openly and explcitly disclaim your interest in filing a patent.
Such disclosure then automatically becomes Prior Art [wikipedia.org] that significantly narrows the scope of future patents.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#45579661)

You can't patent published stuff, so open is the way to go. If you are worried that people will profit off of your open knowledge, then you should have kept it secret or filed for a patent yourself.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

Zordak (123132) | about 5 months ago | (#45581061)

2. That is a big problem and something hard to deal with. From my knowledge current US patent laws are first to file not first to discovery. So either you collect results and don't make them accessible to anyone or you collect results and make them open and hope that they are used to help people.

Not really that hard. The Wiki pretty much takes care of this. Under the new U.S. patent law, the first one to publish blocks all others from getting a patent. As long as the Wiki is publicly viewable, it's a publication. And one year after it's published, the patent rights die forever.

I'd be more concerned about the penicillin effect [wikipedia.org]: a French guy discovered it first, but didn't patent it (anecdotally, because he wanted to "do the right thing" and give it to the world, though I don't have a verified source for that). Since it wasn't patented and wasn't patentable, it wouldn't be profitable. So the drug companies (again, anecdotally) ignored it. Until the 1940s, when (1) there were patentable improvements in the process, (2) there were suddenly a LOT of injured people who could use an antibacterial agent, and (3) (related to 2) the U.S. military heavily subsidized it.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

miketheanimal (914328) | about 5 months ago | (#45581677)

Since you linked the WikiPedia article, you could have reported it correctly: The discovery of penicillin is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928.

Re:Obvious questions (1)

Zordak (123132) | about 4 months ago | (#45590265)

From the Wikipedia article you accuse me of misreporting:

Ernest Duchesne documented it in an 1897 paper,[18] which was not accepted by the Institut Pasteur because of his youth. In March 2000, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, Costa Rica, published the manuscripts of the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887–1944). They reported Picado's observations on the inhibitory actions of fungi of the genus Penicillium between 1915 and 1927. Picado reported his discovery to the Paris Academy of Sciences, yet did not patent it, even though his investigations started years before Fleming's. Joseph Lister was experimenting with Penicillum in 1871 for his aseptic surgery. He found that it weakened the microbes, but then he dismissed the fungi.

Le Spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579511)

That's one way to spin medical testing on humans.

Medicine testing is expensive so lets make the populous make up the difference for businesses, again. Of course, any discoveries will go up the stack while the bullshit goes down the stack until we put it all in a nice walled garden and charge access so terrorists can't use it.

Re:Le Spin (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 5 months ago | (#45580069)

That's one way to spin medical testing on humans.

Medicine testing is expensive so lets make the populous make up the difference for businesses, again. Of course, any discoveries will go up the stack while the bullshit goes down the stack until we put it all in a nice walled garden and charge access so terrorists can't use it.

Did you read the same article I did?

This has nothing to do with medical testing, on humans or otherwise... testing comes at a MUCH later date than what these guys are doing. They're trying to find things in nature that are antibacterial and previously unknown.

Well... I guess if you extend the argument that chimpanzees are human to the argument that our body contains more families of bacteria than anything else, you could call bacteria "human" and then say we're experimenting on them....

If only we had a practical method of funding (5, Insightful)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 5 months ago | (#45579651)

If, for instance, the traditional method of giving the financial burden of medical research to pharmaceutical companies, in exchange for patents which allow them to recoup their losses, is too costly to the public, in terms of both availability of existing treatment (companies have to make their money back somehow) and development of new treatments (since medical researchers have to take care not to infringe on the patents of others, even if it means skipping out on a potential cure for, say, cancer) then possibly, we could try an entirely new approach. Say, asking from the general public a portion of their wages in exchange for an investment into such research. We could even make it compulsory; after all, the benefits of advanced and available medical care benefit the whole of society, as opposed to say, an investment in a company like General Motors, which would do little to secure the welfare of the general population.

Maybe we ought to form an organization dedicated to ensuring the well being of the public. Could work.

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579863)

Sounds like you support taxing for the "general welfare". You must be a Marxist.

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (2)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 5 months ago | (#45580377)

Enjoy my one communist mod point. It won't increase your score or karma any, but you can have it.

Mathematical model (3, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 5 months ago | (#45579947)

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.

Re:Mathematical model (1)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 5 months ago | (#45580285)

It seems you've missed the point of the joke (which implies that we ought to have a government that actually takes care of things which are vital to society), but thank you for displaying your resplendent knowledge of game theory.

In all fairness (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 5 months ago | (#45580433)

It seems you've missed the point of the joke (which implies that we ought to have a government that actually takes care of things which are vital to society), but thank you for displaying your resplendent knowledge of game theory.

In all fairness, it's hard to tell that it was a joke.

In any event, I agree with you that the government should work for the benefit of the people. I'm still playing with message delivery - using a math construction to see if it plays well to an audience of geeks. We'll see how it gets modded in the next day or so.

Re:In all fairness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45582905)

Please place it in the form of a car analogy.

Re:Mathematical model (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580481)

It seems you've missed the point of the joke (which implies that we ought to have a government that actually takes care of things which are vital to society),

Except that isn't a joke, it's a goddamned disaster waiting to happen.

Our government has proven it can't be trusted to take care of things vital to society. Look at our dismal health care system, which is in an even arguably worse situation after the government tried to "fix" it.

Nor, for that matter, can it handle a child's allowance. Cost of government per citizen does not scale in a linear fashion, and yet it's rapidly outpaced by increasing tax revenues. If you haven't been asking, "The fuck?", you're wrong.

In short - dipshits are going to ignore the obvious and think we can get a functional government by voting for the same fucks who have somehow derailed the train and sent it hurtling into a bottomless abyss.

Doesn't sound too funny to me.

Re:Mathematical model (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 4 months ago | (#45585857)

There are lots of governments in the world that are entrusted with things like public health, and do a lot better job than your corporations. Perhaps you should think about trying a new government?

Re:Mathematical model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581103)

It's quite simple, in most countries we remove "the corporation". It doesn't mean we don't get sick, but now "the corporation" must negotiate with "the public" as a block (we generally draw a block that encloses "the public" and call it "the gubbermint" to make it clear that it is now one block).

Then, we actually make the money NOT optional to ensure "the gubbermint" always has enough money to buy things from "the corporation" for "the public".

Suddenly the analogy seems to be less of an analogy and more the reality that most people in developed nations enjoy.

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580169)

Screw that, why should I have to pay for the weeeak? /typical morons response.

It is a shame because such a system would be great if it got off the ground.
I'd sooner fund medical research directly than paying for a corrupt bank or failing business.

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (2)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 5 months ago | (#45580291)

Historically, that has a flaw as well. Take a look at public funding of health research vs incidence or prevalence. Completely skewed towards groups that can apply the most pressure on congress (orders of magnitude out of whack). Funding becomes politically motivated rather than "ensuring the well being of the public."

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (1)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 5 months ago | (#45580361)

Historically, that has a flaw as well.

That's the point of the joke. But you're right, expecting fairness of politicians is silly and unproductive.

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581077)

Sounds like some form of national health service or compulsory personal medical insurance.

Can't think of anywhere that's worked...

Re:If only we had a practical method of funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581817)

There are two problems, 1. The drug industry isn't concerned with finding alternate ways of fighting disease using natural remedies, or compounds found in other life forms which is only going to add more disease, such as cancers, infections, and other failures of the body. 2. There will never be a "cure" for cancer or anything for that matter within the typical Medical Industry. Cures = in the sense that it doesn't require you to go thru months or weeks of treatment and costing you more then a new home, or high end sports car.

This is the fundamental issue with human race, its about money, not finding ways to prevent and cure. The only way to get out of the money driven greed would be if you could get people outside the inner circle of the medical industry to come up with the cures, something like the ideas of open source software.

The other problem which I still cannot understand with people in this country is why they believe this FDA stamp of approval bullshit. What makes them think that because it has that stamp it is any safer then a non stamped drug that has gone thru the same testing. You've seen the commercials for a variety of drugs, which doctors are prescribing, most if not all of them do not have a FDA stamp (I'll say it again, non-FDA drugs being prescribed by doctors, private, and hospital).
The drugs that have the FDA stamp are being quietly recalled off the market because they cause unforeseen sever health effects, such as infections, new diseases, cancers, organ failures. It is funny that people complain about not trusting government but those same ones run out and refuse to take a drug without the federal governments approval.

Supposedly the most advance race, and yet we obsess over money, power, a false sense of freedom, gems, metals. As nerdy as this sounds the general population is already being used in a manner similar to the Matrix films. Just like the movie few wake up to notice it.

Who owns the IP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579703)

Anyone know what the plan is for the IP, if any should arise out of this? I don't think the testers need to have ownership of something they find essentially randomly, but I'd be a bit uncomfortable with the idea of selling it as Open-with-a-capital-O in the open-source software vein if the outcome is that the two guys who run it arrange an exclusive license with big pharma and walk away with all the revenue.

I can see that maybe there will not be any IP, if all the experimental results are posted as soon as they are submitted, but if this is getting monetized (including e.g. priority access to the data for anyone), I'd like to see the proceeds used for some charitable purpose. Or, if they do want to keep the IP to themselves, I'd be cool with that as long as they are open about their intentions from day 1, so people know what they are signing up for.

I just noticed the submitter is one of the two guys in question - can you please comment on this? I don't see any details on the web site. Sorry for coming across so negative, the concept is great.

PS what bacteria are you using, and do you think it might be a good idea to include some yeast in the kit as controls to look for prokaryote-specific effects? You could even engineer them with markers so you could run them on the same plate and look for changes in color ratio or something. I think GFP is off patent now, for example. Data on specificity could greatly increase the usefulness of the results.

Mark Ungrin

Re:Who owns the IP? (1)

Josiah Zayner (3044297) | about 5 months ago | (#45579821)

We have no plans to monetize any of the data.

The original plan was to make all the data Open with a capital O. We are "open" to suggestions. It's just, I grew up on open source software. I use almost all open source software and it changed my life. Taught me to code and hack hardware and software. I couldn't imagine doing something different with my Science or the Science of a project I am working on. It's true a pharma company could just come in and take the data. What do we do though? If someone runs 1000s of samples I want them to receive any credit they deserve. Any press release or Scientific publication people will be mentioned in. At the moment that's the best we can do. Any ideas?

We current use gram negative bacteria, as most pathogenic/antibiotic resistant bacteria tend to be of this variety(though the most common known MRSA is positive). We are also thinking of promoting the use of skin cultures so it is a mix of positive/negative but that can be confusing when viewing the results of an assay. The prokaryotic specific effects is a great idea! Let me see what I can come up with. I will definitely throw you a free kit if the Funding succeeds and we implement it!

Re:Who owns the IP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581375)

We have no plans to monetize any of the data.

The original plan was to make all the data Open with a capital O. We are "open" to suggestions. It's just, I grew up on open source software. I use almost all open source software and it changed my life. Taught me to code and hack hardware and software. I couldn't imagine doing something different with my Science or the Science of a project I am working on. It's true a pharma company could just come in and take the data. What do we do though? If someone runs 1000s of samples I want them to receive any credit they deserve. Any press release or Scientific publication people will be mentioned in. At the moment that's the best we can do. Any ideas?

We current use gram negative bacteria, as most pathogenic/antibiotic resistant bacteria tend to be of this variety(though the most common known MRSA is positive). We are also thinking of promoting the use of skin cultures so it is a mix of positive/negative but that can be confusing when viewing the results of an assay. The prokaryotic specific effects is a great idea! Let me see what I can come up with. I will definitely throw you a free kit if the Funding succeeds and we implement it!

Cool, thanks for the reply. I would say just throw it wide open, have the data pop up on the web as soon as it is submitted and go from there - if you have some good hits, industry may well file some patents on what they build on top of it - there will be good and bad aspects to this, but in practise it will encourage them to spend money on research / trials etc that they wouldn't likely do if they couldn't get exclusivity. I don't have any particular philosophical opposition to them making money off this, I just like everyone to be clear on how things will be structured going in so the idea of crowdsourcing doesn't get a bad reputation.

If you want to talk assay design etc send me an email (firstname.lastname@ucalgary.ca). Antibiotics are not my field but I've done assay development & a fair bit of mol. bio. and am a big fan of the crowd-sourcing concept. I also have some industry contacts (I used to work in "big pharma", academic now) who might be able to shed some light on how far the effort would need to advance before it got to the point that they would be interested in picking it up.

Good luck.

Mark Ungrin

"Only 7." How many new antibiotics needed now? (3, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about 5 months ago | (#45579755)

TFS says "only seven ... in advanced stages of development". How many new antibiotics do we need in the next five or ten years? If seven are in advanced stages of development, that means there are a couple dozen in earlier stages, to go up for approval twenty years from now. Do we need a dozen brand new antibiotics every year? Should we be skeptical of this article's assumption that seven at a time isn't enough?

Re:"Only 7." How many new antibiotics needed now? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580197)

Depends on the infection, but if you do a simple stress test on antibiotics with varying densities in a petri dish, infections can break through lower densities fairly quickly.
Considering so many morons never finish their full course of antibiotics, those levels routinely drop below and infections can grow again.
Then they bitch at the doctor again because it never worked only to get more antibiotics, ONLY TO REPEAT IT.
It is one of the biggest reasons next to abuse in factory farming for massive increases in infections, besides overly-sterile food that is, that shit is going to destroy a generation soon with autoimmune.

Re:"Only 7." How many new antibiotics needed now? (5, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#45580637)

I'd argue we need thousands. Tens of thousands would be even better. If you're in the west it's nice to think bacterial infections are no big deal. The majority of the world who live in poverty would greatly disagree with your limited scope however. I visited a leper colony in Africa. Yes they still have those, and it's fucking horrific. Mycobacterium leprae (the bacterium that causes it) cannot be grown in culture. It has to be grown ON an animal or human (think about that for a minute) and has also started to become resistant to the only known antibiotic to be affective against it. Should this resistance continue (and it will) we could start seeing outbreaks in the west. The day your dick falls off, you might think 7 antibiotics "in the pipeline" may not be enough. Since none of those 7 even remotely target leprosy.

Re:"Only 7." How many new antibiotics needed now? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581215)

Med student here. We learned in our microbiology course that antibiotic resistance pops up fairly rapidly - as short as 2 years, hence the perpetual need for new antibiotics.

Not going to work out all that well (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45579783)

I've been reading Derek Lowe's blog (http://www.pipeline.corante.com/) for some time, since finding out about his "Things I Won't Work With" series of posts (hilarious, highly recommended). He's a drug discovery chemist. Several of his recent posts have actually discussed this issue of pharma companies not currently developing many new antibiotics.

Based on what I've learned by following him, this crowdsourcing effort seems very unlikely to change anything. Identifying potential drug candidates "in vitro" (i.e. in a petri dish) is the easy part. Getting them to function "in vivo" (in a living animal such as a rodent, and eventually humans), and finding ones which not only work in vivo but also are not excessively toxic, that's the hard part. For almost every successful drug, there were hundreds or thousands of other candidates which looked great in vitro but were ineffective in vivo, or too toxic to use. The process of screening drug candidates to find winners is hideously expensive, and completely out of reach of amateurs.

In other words, this project follows the classic (and useless) "idea-man" pattern: it "solves" the easy part of the problem (generating ideas / drug candidates) without having any plan for the hard stuff. It will therefore ultimately depend on pharma companies anyways. You know, the same ones which aren't terribly interested in doing the hard and expensive work on antibiotic candidates because the economics look bad to them right now.

IMO, we as a society should instead be pushing issues like: "Why are we so slavishly devoted to the notion that funding for drug discovery must derive from capitalistic market forces"? This seems like the very definition of a problem which should be addressed by spending tax money on antibiotic research. Same goes for many other categories of drug.

The other part of the conversation should be "why are we so devoted to not cracking down on antibiotic overprescription and unprescribed use of antibiotics in both human and veterinary medicine"? (That being why old antibiotics are losing effectiveness.) Once again, obvious candidates for government action.

(But this is slashdot, so I predict libertarian resistance to sensible ideas about public policy and spending.)

Re:Not going to work out all that well (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#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.

Re:Not going to work out all that well (3, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 5 months ago | (#45580395)

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.

The situation has basically been taken out of the "market" model.

Risk-averse bureaucrats make the safety requirements without any cost burden of implementing the requirements. As a result, the drugs must be "safe at any cost", rather then "do more harm than good".

The consumers are captive, forced to use the system: no one can choose a "risky, less-well tested, but cheaper" treatment. While this may seem reasonable on the surface, it means that companies don't have to compete for consumers based on the value of their services.

Nothing about this system even remotely resembles a market.

To address your point directly, let's assume that one human life is worth $5 million [wikipedia.org]. That's a reasonable estimate, and it doesn't much matter where you put the estimates, you can still do the analysis. Also assume that it costs $5 billion [forbes.com] to develop a new antibiotic.

The trade-off appears to be 1,000 lives lost. If no company develops a new antibiotic and 2,000 lives are lost, then the regulations have hurt society more than they have helped. The problem is that the cost of 2,000 human lives is not borne by the regulatory agency or the drug companies. They can safely claim "it isn't our fault" if anything bad happens.

As you say, the need for future antibiotics can't be tested - but the break-even point is small and we have abundant historical evidence from before the discovery of antibiotics about the effect on our population health.

"Speculation" and untested rationale aren't the appropriate words to use here. "Impending disaster" is much closer than you would have us believe.

Just straight up bullshit (2)

RobinEggs (1453925) | about 5 months ago | (#45580405)

You are so full of shit I don't even know where to begin.

For one thing, drug resistant infection is quite common, and becoming more so every month. I have no idea what led you to believe antibiotic resistance isn't a serious problem. Cite me a respected public health organization that isn't seriously concerned; I doubt you can even find me one that isn't outright shitting their pants.

And all your pro-market babble toward the end of that giant paragraph is pure sociopathy. "Moreover, undiscovered antibiotics are probably better left undiscovered until we learn our lesson about wasting them on livestock." Fuck planning for the future, right? We can totally outpace organisms that replicate in hours or days once we put the mighty human free-market after it, right?

It's OK if a few hundred million people die agonizing deaths; in the long run you're perfectly confident that the market value of new antibioitics will rise faster than the body count. The rest of us are not confident, and not willing to risk our very lives depending the companies that for the last 20 years have focused on six-figure cancer treatments. lifestyle drugs, and whining for tax breaks.

Re:Not going to work out all that well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581115)

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?

I can tell you're a free-marketer. I know this may be hard for you to accept, as you participate in a faith which demands that you believe in the almighty power of the invisible hand, but... markets aren't always the best possible model for solving the problem of allocating resources. In fact, they often fail even in problem spaces where they should theoretically excel, thanks to real-world factors which are inconvenient to doctrinaire laissez-faire capitalist true believers.

You'd know this if you read some Adam Smith, and maybe even some (gasp!) Marx. (Note: you do not have to agree with Marx's prescribed solutions and/or predictions about the future to agree with the failure modes he observed in capitalism.)

You have this intuition that it is important,

Intuition? Hah. You could not possibly be more wrong. It is a simple matter of fact that market forces do not properly allocate society's resources under many circumstances. Particularly not in a business culture which pays excessive attention to short term returns (i.e. the next quarterly result, to keep the stockholders happy).

and some rationale that cannot be tested because it involves some speculation about the future need for new antibiotics.

Okay, so you're stupid and/or poorly informed. There is no question that we are going to need new antibiotics. There is this giant testable theory of evolution, and as it and a host of other work in the field predicts, existing antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective. MRSA bacterial infections are on the rise.

Note also that we have historical data on this -- early antibiotic drugs fell out of favor in part because bacteria evolved resistances to them too.

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.

So, let me get this straight: if I'm not rich enough to invest in antibiotic discovery or start a company, what I have to say is dismissable?

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.

In other words, you've looked at the current system and you think you are the reasonable one and you think it's working just fine. The trouble with this line of argument is Dunning-Kruger. Most people are simply unaware of how much they don't know. You are blissfully unaware of how much you don't know about economics (since you appear to have a naive, childlike faith in the power of the free market to solve all ills), and you are also unaware of the upcoming antibiotic crisis.

It's easy to think things are just fine when you don't know shit.

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.

I'm not talking about intuition, you fool. I'm talking about reality: things that are uncommon today can become very common indeed years down the road.

Twenty years ago, did we have nasty outbreaks of multiple-drug-resistant bacteria? Nope. Now we do. They're pretty likely to spread, because of this whole evolution thing you may have heard of -- these new organisms are more fit to reproduce in an environment which includes today's antibiotics, so they are going to replace non-resistant populations.

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.

So it seems you actually do acknowledge reality a little, but want to bargain it away. I've got a better idea: instead of waiting for more people to die before the market "notices", let's spend the money now and get ahead of the problem.

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.

Why do we need market based solutions for this again? We can simply ban poor uses.

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.

So sayeth a man who implicitly trusts markets to directly serve the public good, even though they provably do not always do so, and even though they are already not doing so in this case.

Over and over in the history of modern civilization, high-cost R&D with high risks and distant returns has had to be done by governments. Private industry often isn't willing -- or even able -- to do it.

Re:Not going to work out all that well (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 4 months ago | (#45585963)

I'm a PhD with experience in clinical trial design and analysis. I have no money (I said I'm a PhD, right?) but I'll happily help start and work for a company that wants to do productive medical research. A friend of mine picked out a perfect spot in Puerto Rico for the headquarters. Does that count?

Re:Not going to work out all that well (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 5 months ago | (#45580497)

IMO, we as a society should instead be pushing issues like: "Why are we so slavishly devoted to the notion that funding for drug discovery must derive from capitalistic market forces"? This seems like the very definition of a problem which should be addressed by spending tax money on antibiotic research.

Yeah, cause that works so well for everything else. Nothing's homier than public housing, healthier than a "free" clinic, or cleaner than a public restroom.

Re:Not going to work out all that well (1)

psithurism (1642461) | about 5 months ago | (#45580865)

But this is slashdot, so I predict libertarian resistance to sensible ideas about public policy and spending.

This is a site frequented mainly by real Americans so you will hear our freedom loving, capitalist ideals.

See, our founding fathers didn't need any of this antibiotic bullshit. When they got an infection, they chopped off the gangrenous body parts or died of the infection, like REAL AMERICANs! It's just too unprofitable to do otherwise.

Go back to China, but take this copy of the Atlas Shrugged and maybe you can come back some time.

Yeah, well (0)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 5 months ago | (#45579831)

Still the most potent anti-biotic on the planet is plain old penicillin. And no, Amoxycillin and all its derivatives aren't the same and aren't better. UNLESS you are allergic to penicillin. Then you have no choice. Thing is, penicillin is about a nickel a pill and it works much faster. No money in it for the drug companies.

Same with sweeteners. Still the safest on the market is saccharin. But the patent ran out on it so the drug companies again needed a way to make money.

except (4, Informative)

slew (2918) | about 5 months ago | (#45580233)

Still the most potent anti-biotic on the planet is plain old penicillin. And no, Amoxycillin and all its derivatives aren't the same and aren't better. UNLESS you are allergic to penicillin. Then you have no choice. Thing is, penicillin is about a nickel a pill and it works much faster. No money in it for the drug companies.

Same with sweeteners. Still the safest on the market is saccharin. But the patent ran out on it so the drug companies again needed a way to make money.

Okay, I'll bite...

Except for the small fact that penicillin is basically ineffective against most gram-negative bacteria (because of the outer membrane of GN-bacteria). Many common bacterial including E coli, H pylori, and various strains of Salmonella are gram negative and can cause various problems if they infect certain tissues in the body. This particular campaign was for drugs that attack gram-negative bacteria (the trial kits test against a supposedly non-pathogenic strain of E coli).

Also most artificial sweeteners are all pretty much all poison (saccaharin included), and even worse they generally haven't been show to actually prevent any of the problems associated with high sugar intake (including weight gain, diabetes and cardiac issues). Even mostly natural substitutes are generally high in fructose (yes the same "F" that is in HFCS) and that includes honey and agave syrup. The jury is out on Stevia and Monk Fruit. Just eat less sweet stuff.

 

Re:except (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581125)

"The jury is out on Stevia and Monk Fruit."

No it isn't. I bet these are the latest things to be called 'superfoods' and every TV breakfast host will be pushing it.

It's already well known and documented what sugars are in what fruits.

As usual it will take doctors to start pointing this out to vacuous soccer moms before that sinks in.

Re:except (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581163)

Also most artificial sweeteners are all pretty much all poison (saccaharin included), and even worse they generally haven't been show to actually prevent any of the problems associated with high sugar intake (including weight gain, diabetes and cardiac issues).

Er, what?

The poison part: water is a poison if taken in a sufficiently high dose. Lots of people love to do lots of fearmongering about sugar substitutes, but the truth is that they're consumed in small doses (*), and the dose is very important in determining whether a "poison" actually does any harm.

The high sugar intake part: you have got to be shitting me. You're pretty crazy and/or stupid if you seriously believe that cutting caloric intake by substituting a dramatically lower calorie substance (or effectively no-calorie in the case of sugar substitutes which are designed to be nonmetabolizable) has no impact on weight gain/loss, diabetes, and cardiac problems.

* - Most artificial sweeteners have a sweetness hundreds or thousands of times greater than natural sugar. This means that artificial sugar made from them consists of a neutral filler and tiny amounts of the sweetener.

Re:except (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581841)

What's stupid is watching fat pigs gulp down litres of chemical shit and processed foods, and trying to balance the scales with artificial sweeteners. Drink water and get a moderate intake of sugars that the body can use as energy... from fruit! This is all too hard for morbidly obese, diabetic , who have 'tried everything' - except common sense.

Sorry - this stuff annoys me so much. I started keeping a 2 litre bottle of water with me years ago, for every time I sit down at the computer, or to read. I'm not even conscious of doing it half the time - but I end up going through a minimum of 5 litres a day. If I had soft-drink, I'd probably do the same, so I only drink it occasionally. More people should try it, as they are often dehydrated without feeling thirsty. Caffeinated drinks satisfy an immediate thirst - but have a diuretic effect. Water also helps suppress cravings for fatty or sugary foods during the day, with zero calories. Every piss after the first one in the morning should be almost colourless if you're drinking enough of water. You will also be maintaining the health of your kidneys, and the whole renal system, in the long term.

Re:except (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45589423)

What's stupid is the mean-spirited fat-shaming meant to prop up your ego, not help those who are fat. What's stupid is you trying to put yourself on a pedestal for drinking water (hoo boy look at Mr. Superior!). What's stupid is you pointing and laughing at people who have successfully cut a huge number of calories out of their diet by drinking artificially sweetened soda instead of sugar-sweetened soda. What's stupid is using crazy armchair-doctor-talk to argue that they are deriving no benefit from this.

Re:except (1)

wizard992 (176718) | about 4 months ago | (#45589527)

Well, thanks for your judgement of fat people and the advice you have given. Now, if you will step off your fat hate soapbox for a moment, let me try to get you to see things from a different perspective.

For YOU water suppresses cravings. For YOU this is common sense. You lack a fundamental understanding of how excessive sugar affects the body, and the mindset of an overweight person. For an obese person food, especially sugar, are drugs. They cause the same response in the body that any other addictive substance or activity does for a normal person. When an obese person eats a large pizza or a tub of ice cream it is causing a pleasure response in their brain. Stopping this behavior (cutting out sugar or fat or whatever from the diet) causes withdrawal symptoms. How easy do you think it would be for you to detox from heroin, or even cigarettes? The addiction to food causes a feedback loop, the brain sitting there saying "You can have more. Come on, it will make us feel good, we will worry about the diet tomorrow" and when you give in it just reinforces the cycle. In the end it takes a great amount of willpower and determination, and not a little physical pain, to truly adjust your eating habits and lose weight. Just like any other addiction this feeling doesn't go away, it just lessens over time. A formerly obese person needs to exercise constant willpower to not regress into the addiction.

It's a much more subtle addiction then drugs or porn or whatever, because when it starts it is very hard to know that it is a bad thing. When you snort a line of coke or shoot some heroin you have at least some idea that what you are doing is bad and could lead to a severe problem, with food it is not so easy to draw the line between normal and problem eating. Stop judging fat people as lazy or worthless, and instead see them for what they are, addicts.

The problem is overuse of antibiotics (5, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 5 months ago | (#45579857)

The main problem is overuse of antibiotics - both in the food supply itself, and in every day usage, is breeding resistance to our current antibiotics. Combined with people going off meds before the antiobiotic regime is completed.

Discovering "new" antibiotics won't make that problem go away.

Fix the source of the problem not the symptom.

Re:The problem is overuse of antibiotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45582347)

The main problem is overuse of antibiotics - both in the food supply itself, and in every day usage, is breeding resistance to our current antibiotics.

This is something for an avaaz.org campaign...

Re:The problem is overuse of antibiotics (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 months ago | (#45584227)

Agreed. Finding new antibiotics only postpones the problem. We can take steps now to alleviate it, like banning antibiotic soap and restricting the use of antibiotics currently in use. Bacteria make up well over 99% of the biomass of the planet. A war on them isn't one we can win.

Re:The problem is overuse of antibiotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45589109)

As I understand it we have to fix both. Fixing just the root cause isn't good enough any more, unless we can manage to isolate and exterminate multiply resistant bacterial strains without new drugs to attack them. (Good luck with that.)

Re:The problem is overuse of antibiotics (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#45589337)

No, that's what we said with malaria. With malaria we had no drugs for 40 years AND no effective programs. Some of us worked on malarial drugs, some of us worked on the other parts.

With antibiotics the MAIN problem is overuse of antibiotics. This creates the resistant strains and makes any drug discovery mostly a waste of time.

biased sampling will cause problems. (2)

rritterson (588983) | about 5 months ago | (#45579979)

This is an interesting proposal to combat the "death of antibiotic" problem. Even if it were wildly sucessful, though, I fear that big business may not take up the results that are found, though. For one, although discovering new sources does remove some of the capital hurdles to development, a substantial part of the cost of drug development is the large clinical studies that must be undertaken in order to garner FDA approval. This project would do nothing to solve that problem.

In addition, it raises some interesting IP issues that may make pharma balk--if I discover some natural substance has antibiotic properties, do I earn an inventor title on the patent and partial royalities for the development?

What is really needed, I think, is a diversion of part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget toward research that would otherwise be avoided due to the lack of profit at the end. Even as someone, who, myself is funded by NIH, I think we could make better use of some of the many billions a year by re-directing them.

That all said, if the project is not viewed with the end goal of developing new antibiotics, but instead viewed as a project designed to encourage particiaption in modern biology--an educational project that might cause a discovery, it's hard to think of it as anything but a fanstastic idea.

Re:biased sampling will cause problems. (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | about 5 months ago | (#45580031)

If I found the new antibiotic while testing pants or bugs in my garden for fun I wouldn't be too pissed if I didn't get any money for it.

I would just be happy to have helped,

Re:biased sampling will cause problems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45626943)

If you can find a new antibiotic by testing pants then I think you will get more fame than you expected.

Re:biased sampling will cause problems. (1)

Josiah Zayner (3044297) | about 5 months ago | (#45580127)

Thanks so much!
Yeah, the project has many cool aspects. To teach Science, to bring awareness to antibiotic resistance, to start a massive open Science project.

The development of drugs is no small task, we know that! We are attempting to contribute what we can and allow others to contribute what they can. Often people think of how things are _now_ but not how they will be in the future. Regardless of whether we, or people who collaborate with us, or companies, develop these drugs the database should be pretty awesome to have around. Who knows, maybe in 50 years the NIH donates a bunch of money to develop one of these drugs, probably not but no one can predict the future. And if it is not done there never is any chance of that happening. So you do the best you can with the present and hope someone picks it up eventually.

that's all we need (1)

slew (2918) | about 5 months ago | (#45580075)

A bunch of scientists with enough spare time who apparently can't find enough funding to be fully employed experimenting with antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in their spare time in their make-shift private labs...

Or better yet some wannabe scientists that think they know what they are doing trying their first experiments with antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in their basements and garages.

What could possibly go wrong?

Why? Why the hell *should* I help? (0)

pla (258480) | about 5 months ago | (#45580427)

So we can waste them on livestock and toddlers with viral ear infections but sufficiently-whiny mothers?

Fuck that! Until the FDA and the WHO outright ban the use of ALL antibiotics, including for veterinary use, without the presence of either a (human-)life-threatening situation or a positive ID on the pathogen, I have zero interest in helping our little "better than apex predator" buddies evolve resistance to yet another class of effective ways to keep me alive when they decide I look like a tasty place to raise a family.

Re:Why? Why the hell *should* I help? (1)

Josiah Zayner (3044297) | about 5 months ago | (#45580669)

On the one hand I agree with you. Things can hit a critical point fast if human beings are not careful.
On the other hand(this one is my right hand I think) comfortability is what allows us humans to spend time thinking and developing technology and cool things and beautiful things! Where does one draw a line like you said. What if I am in extreme pain but it is not life threatening and the lab test for the bacteria takes two days? I guess we could make people suffer or we could give them antibiotics in hopes that the diagnosis was correct. Are you going to be the one that rejects giving the whiny mother the antibiotic only to have her child die? Maybe the chances are highly unlikely but who is the one who is going to be responsible for that?

In my view humans are super awesome. We can come up with new technology and invent ways to try and overcome difficult problems. As I said. Maybe you are correct and we are just creating super bacteria that are going to wipe us out. I guess I am just _hoping_ that we as humans overcome in the end. Maybe naively.

Re:Why? Why the hell *should* I help? (1)

pla (258480) | about 5 months ago | (#45580791)

What if I am in extreme pain but it is not life threatening and the lab test for the bacteria takes two days?

Opiates do amazing things. Pity, really, that some humans have a problem with moderation, because vicodin counts as the single best flu remedy ever.


Are you going to be the one that rejects giving the whiny mother the antibiotic only to have her child die?

Not too many people die of ear infections - Even mild hearing loss counts as a relatively low-frequency outcome. And unlike the whiny mother, a real live doctor can actually tell whether the screaming kid has a serious risk of dying or not. That said - Yes. Yes, I would make that call, and I would defend it after-the-fact, if felt I had made the right decision up front. People die, and that includes sick kids, that even includes me! And I can accept that. But y'know, if I someday die of polydrug resistant TB rather than heart disease or cancer or a bus or "misadventure", I sincerely hope an afterlife exists just so I can haunt every GP who helped make the fluoroquinolones useless rather than dare say "No!" to their patients.

Are you testing poisonous plants? (1)

Snarfangel (203258) | about 5 months ago | (#45580775)

Not that I have the urge to track down death caps or anything, but I have noticed that NOTHING seems to munch on or infect poison oak (at least where I live). It stays nice, glossy green until the leaves turn in the fall, without wilting or mold or any other ailment I can see on other plants. It would be interesting to see if the urushiol oil or something else protected it.

Re:Are you testing poisonous plants? (1)

Josiah Zayner (3044297) | about 5 months ago | (#45580823)

I have not thought of that. The Cool thing is you can test whatever you think might work. If has some Scientific basis and logic to it that is even cooler!

Where's the wisdom? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 months ago | (#45581521)

Infections are bad. Sometimes they are really bad. I can't say I have ever had a serious infection. Could be I've had an extremely lucky life in this first world country I live in. I'm sure that factors in there somewhere. I have had lots of cuts, scrapes, breaks and even a tear of an epic nature. (I was a young teen, running through a field and tripped on a fallen and very old barbed wire fence while wearing sandals. Ripped a very bad area on the top of my foot... looked like a skinned catfish.) I was in a hospital within 2-3 hours, got shots, stitches and released within a few minutes of that. I'm sure some antibiotics were used during that event.

Not going to deny that antibiotics can save lives and limbs.

But we've got to have some sense and wisdom about this stuff. We need some tests not just for natural antibody counts, but for artificial antibody (antibiotics) counts as well. Ideally levels for antibiotics should be at or very nearly zero at any given time. This best enables the body's own natural immune system to function which keeps people generally more healthy and keeps vaccines more effective. (Did you know that a vaccine is useless without a healthy immune system? That's right. You already knew it too! You know a vaccine is a deactivated virus. You know that the body's immune system will adapt itself around the foreign invader to build resistance to it. So naturally, the immune system has to be healthy for this plan to work effectively right?) So it is absolutely critical that antibiotics levels are monitored and minimized.

While I'm not decided on it, I have given some thought to the AIDS situation and wonder how much of it may actually be caused by things other than a virus attacking the immune systems of people. (Not saying AIDS doesn't exist!) We have lots and lots of reasons why a person might have a weakened or even disabled immune system not the least of which is overexposure to antibiotics. I am reminded of the increased rate of diabetes in the US and its lose connection with HFCS. Here we have a body's sugar handling systems getting burned out from handling too much HFCS resulting in a broken system, or diabetes. I have to wonder if there are things other than HIV which may be attacking or even overloading the immune systems of people which leads to a broken immune system? I'm not expert on the topic, but given the general demographic of people with such problems, it would seem to me there may be more to it than gay sex and needle sharing which is at the source.

Regardless of anything else, I think it should be very well accepted that maintaining a strong and healthy immune system should be focus #1 of maintaining health among humans. Creating new antibiotics to handle the super-bugs resulting from the over-use of older antibiotics and/or the persistence of antibiotics in our food and water doesnt seem like a smart answer.

Don't worry FDA will outlaw it tomorrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581553)

You have no Proof those Antibiotic substances kill Germs.. we know this is true because we stopped you before you misled the Public

Open Crowdsourcing Cretens.. the Public can't handle all this new information your throwing at them.. IckiePedia.. what is this IckiePedia?

It's one of them darn Tubes isn't it!

Banned.. Ban you All

One-way crowdsourcing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581757)

Let's see if they 'crowd-source' the profits and / or stock options when the results are commercialised.

Re:One-way crowdsourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45584387)

They are crowdsourcing the part of the work that research institutes usually. I don't think pharmaceutical companies usually compensate anybody for that part of the work.
They might be right as apparently even for penicillin they took years to make a drug out of it after Flemming made the original discovery in the petri dish. So maybe the hard part is really the in vivo testing, clinical studies, convincing doctors and teaching them.
That said, it might become legal for such projects to have stocks that the participants can own. There were news about new investment rules that would make this compatible with crowdfunding.
Anyway, I am actually wondering if my kids would be able to participate because this idea is so awesome! So, really it would be silly to argue now about potential profits. When there is real money, lawyers will volunteer to make things 'right' for anybody that has half a case to say they were somehow slighted.
In the meantime, enjoy the science.

It sounds... Fun! (1)

LeoDeSol (1323269) | about 4 months ago | (#45584917)

I bought a kit because I think this would be fun to do with my daughter. It is worth it for that experience alone. This also seems like a very fun activity to do for a classroom project. You get to go out and find things you want to sample, then do the test, etc. Geo tagging, and the like as well. Maybe it wont ultimately be successful, but it will certainly be a fun and educational experience for the participants.
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