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Biology Goes Open Source

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the models-that-work-from-time-to-time dept.

Businesses 100

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

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What do you know (3, Interesting)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987302)

Maybe evil corporations are not that evil after all. Nah, can't be.

Re:What do you know (1)

Ghostalker474 (1022885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987380)

Yeah, I'm kinda at a loss of words for once. Gonna have to do one of those distributed-computing web projects, like SETI@home or that protein folding thingy.

Re:What do you know (2, Interesting)

Thusi02 (998416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987476)

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

Thusjanthan Kubendranathan

Re:What do you know (1)

Derek Loev (1050412) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987560)

Well, it's obvious that they intentionally submitted fake data simply to sidetrack the world as they plan their final acts of world domination. We will all be occupied with this new data and they will blindside us, I swear it! Yet I will stand strong.
Personally, I do not want to be placed into a pool full of a mutant sea bass with freakin' laser beams on their head (Yes, I've seen their secret plans). Do you?

Re:What do you know (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987986)

While I applaud the company, the notion that the human genome or any part of it is anyone's to keep, license or give away is appalling.

They're not talking about licensing a portion... (2, Informative)

JoshDM (741866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988412)

While I applaud the company, the notion that the human genome or any part of it is anyone's to keep, license or give away is appalling.

They're not talking about licensing a portion; they're talking about giving away knowledge regarding which portion likely relates to diabetes.

Re:What do you know (1)

ashtophoenix (929197) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988790)

I understand what you mean. It breaks the heart that someone may uncover some biological info about human beings as a race and then just hide it from humans itself. Okay, so you were fortunate (or even hard-working) enough to be able to find this information. Does that give you the right to keep it from the rest of the race? After all, isn't it the genetic info that corresponds to all us humans??? It's like saying, I've found the cure for aids but I will not give it out to anyone else even though it would take me more time to make it work for people. abhorable.

Re:What do you know (1)

Dining Philanderer (899400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18003012)

So people are not to profit from their hard work?
If I found the cure to AIDS I would do two things :
1 Make sure that a vaccine was developed.
2 Try to make some money off if it (notice how I said some...).

You know the more I think about your statement the more ridiculous it sounds. If I (after my hard work or even lucky research) found a way to generate hyper-efficient solar panels you bet your ass I would try to profit off it.

Re:What do you know (1)

ashtophoenix (929197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18011078)

So you would try to make some money off it. Firstly, that is not what corporations think. When you are patenting something, you are not making *some* money off it, but your plan is to milk it till it has any juice. Secondly, you found something yeah?? Where ther fuck did you find it from? If you go back to the basics you will realize that ideas do not belong to people. They are simply there. In so far that the idea may not even have come to you from your mind but from someone elses! (You find this bizarre? That doesn't surprise me for most people don't try to go beyond a certain point in things). Many a time it has been debated that ideas don't really belong to anyone. If somehow your instrument (in this case your physical brain) caught it, doesn't mean it is 'yours'! But if you don't understand it yet, you won't realize it (until you do). Hopefully you will someday.

Re:What do you know (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989790)

I'm pretty sure I can use the "prior art" clause.

Re:What do you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17991514)

While I applaud the company, the notion that the human genome or any part of it is anyone's to keep, license or give away is appalling.

Absolutely. Nature is open-source (or should be).

This move to present the data a is better ethically, scientifically and pratically.

Re:What do you know (1)

Alky_A (1015285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988224)

You're so cynical, no reason to wonder for long. I'm sure the horrible, humanity-destroying thing they did to cause this move will surface soon enough.

Re:What do you know (1)

DAtkins (768457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17993300)

Of course, now the terrorists know what genes to add to that retro virus they're working on to give us all diabetes.

And you thought it was all those donuts...

Re:What do you know (1)

maclizard (1029814) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988452)

It's about freaking time!

Re:What do you know (1)

slocan (769303) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988608)

Or they are publishing it because "it will take the entire world to interpret [that] data".

I.e, since they cannot hope to interpret it by themselves, therefore not being able to leverage it commercially, they publish as a last resort, so that they can benefit in some (unforeseen by them? to a greater or lesser degree) form after the whole world has worked to interpret the data.

It doesn't look like generosity, fraternal love or willful cooperation.

Re:What do you know (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988636)

Maybe there really are people who chose biology as a career because they wanted to help fight diseases...

Re:What do you know (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990216)

Don't give up on those evil corporations.

They'll always find a way to cook the goose that laid the Golden egg.

Less ethical corporations will take this data, use it to extend what THEY know about it, and hord it for a profit.

Unless, of course, the data was released under an Open License.

Re:What do you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18142478)

Biology Wiki []
is an article about this demo of a biology wiki []

So, there seems to be a movement in open source biology.

Patent (1)

bradsenff (1047338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987310)

Great, let's all rush out and patent a vague application related to the gene(s) in question. We'll be rich.

I'll call it our open source money maker.

C'mon, we can do it!

How long until legal problems manifest themselves? (4, Insightful)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987318)

It just seems unlikely that the darkside won't
come up with some 'problem' to squash this
wonderful idea.

Re:How long until legal problems manifest themselv (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990524)

Haha, that supposes it hasn't already happened. I suspect they are picking some random genes, saying 'these are the ones you guys should focus on,' while in secret they have already analyzed them and deteremined they are useless. That way, the competition spins it's wheels while they investigate other, more promising, genes.

Biological Stallman (5, Insightful)

shawn443 (882648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987378)

But another requirement of making the leap from genes to drugs is making the research public--a step that will make it difficult for researchers elsewhere to patent any of this raw genetic information.
The only thing I hate worse than software patents are genetic patents. If any industries could use a Stallman it would be biotech and genetic.

Re:Biological Stallman (1, Funny)

Lithdren (605362) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987436)

I've always found the concept of Genetic Patens hilarious. Prior art? ITS MOVING.

I mean, c'mon!

Re:Biological Stallman (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988060)

I have no problem with companies patenting novel genes (in other words genes that they have invented or have altered to perform a novel or improved function). But patenting genes that their sole effort (however small or big that might be) was to simply observe in catalog is no different than a zoologist patenting any new species he finds or an astronomer patenting the galaxies he sees in a telescope.

It's very obvious that patents have spun completely out of control, and that the public has bought hook, line and sinker into it when we're all lauding some corporate interest for giving away what never was theirs to begin with.

patenting any genes is absurd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988710)

How do they know the gene is novel? Just because they can create it in a lab doesn't mean it doesn't already exist in the wild. Even worse, what happens to people who have their patented gene naturally occur? Can they be sued for patent infringement because they have a mutated gene that happens to have been patented by some huge multinational? It's like patenting subatomic particles with the logic that "well, I created it in a bloody particle accelerator, therefore I own the rights to it". That's absurd, it's a fucking subatomic particle! Patenting genes is absurd, it's a fucking gene!

Re:patenting any genes is absurd (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989764)

... it's a fucking gene!

If somebody finds that gene and patents it we're all in trouble.

Re:Biological Stallman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987594)

Attention, Earthlings ... All your genes belong to us!

Re:Biological Stallman (1)

Alef (605149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990124)

The only thing I hate worse than software patents are genetic patents.

The logic behind patents on genes (or so they argue) is that it requires research to understand and find applications to a specific gene, even though the actual gene it technically not unknown form the start. You know, sort of like the process of searching a software patent database, and figuring out what the patents mean and how to use them. Actually, has anyone tried to patent the application of a specific software patent yet...?

Re:Biological Stallman (1)

MathGod (201794) | more than 7 years ago | (#17995348)

Sure, but an intelligent one this time, ok?

There is a cure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987430)

Re:There is a cure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988418)

Well I guess the mice can break out the campaign bottles and celebrate. Us humans will have to wait quite a bit yet though.

Re:There is a cure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988642)

Why should we? Capsaicin is relatively non toxic and if I had diabetes I'd give it
a shot ... literally...

Mainly a good PR move . . . (5, Insightful)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987444)

It's not like Novartis has made their entire drug database public with all of their notes regarding which drugs they're interested in pursuing or not,... They've done some significant analysis into the diabetes gene, and rather than withholding it, they're making it public. There's no real compelling reason to protect this aspect of the research, so why not? The benefits of releasing it outweigh the negatives:

  • They still get to do their own research and develop their own drugs to target specific genes in this area.
  • They get huge kudos in the PR arena for their attempts at finding a cure for cancer diabetes. They can use this in advertising campaigns.
  • As researchers in other pharmaceutical companies and/or academia use this information, they'll eventually write grants and use it in their research. Novartis will still get the advantage from them citing the source,... Again, see the above advertising part,...

Re:Mainly a good PR move . . . (1)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987724)

nah, it's the best early april fool's joke evar

Re:Mainly a good PR move . . . (2, Insightful)

Baba Ram Dass (1033456) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988374)

Yep, this is what drives the free market: people acting in their own self-interest. Novartis probably doesn't expect or intend to benefit others with this move (it's PR like you said), but undoubtedly their self-interest will end up benefiting others.

Gimme a break --should we consider them generous? (1)

KWTm (808824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17991844)

So, after benefitting from this huge global effort called the Human Genome Project, they decide to give away a fraction of their spoils. Are we supposed to give them a standing ovation? Jump for joy?

That's like all of us contributing articles and money to Wikipedia, and then Wikipedia says, "Hey, here are some articles that you can read for free --we won't charge you any money."

<sarcasm>Thanks a lot, Novartis, for your huge contribution! I will express my gratitude by blinking my eyes. Once. (Just the left eye; the right eye blink is in honour of SCO not coming with a new press conference today.) </sarcasm>

we'll never have enough computing power (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987456)

If people are wondering how much computing power we can possibly need..

The answer is we can never have enough. To cure many of our worst diseases we will need to simulate molecular interactions on the nanoscale and determine how to safely fix what goes wrong. That requires an unbelievable amount of computing power.

Re:we'll never have enough computing power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988154)

So, when we have enough computing power to simulate molecular interactions on the nanoscale and determine how to safely fix what goes wrong, we'll have enough computing power. Right?

Re:we'll never have enough computing power (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 7 years ago | (#17995334)

Yes, but imagine a Beo.... no, I can't do it. I just can't. On a side note, that quantum computer thingy featured earlier [] might come in handy to solve such problems.

And when (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987524)

And when they'll realize that Open Spouce is not a panacea or the Holy Grail, and that it creates other problems, not more or less than "Closed Source", just different.... Open Source is more and more like the new ".com" these days.

Yeah, but... (4, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987530)

closed source is so much more secure... what we need is developers, developers, developers, yeah, whoo

Seriously, I think all findings on the human genome project should be open. It took a huge effort and even persons at home let spare cycles run on this project. Our bodies, and what's inside should be open since it's not something 'they' invented, manufactured or engineered. Whatever drugs they're developing could be closed, but generics should definitely be allowed too.

Re:Yeah, but... (2, Insightful)

SportyGeek (694769) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987618)

Mod parent up. I also believe that many of these pharmaceutical companies should make their sequencing data of other organisms (read: pathogens) available to the public. This will make the drug discovery process much faster when more minds are thrown into the mix. Keeping data like this behind closed doors may be a good business model, but it certainly does not help the state of affairs in infectious diseases.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

DAtkins (768457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17993340)

This information is usualy developed at the university level at this time - therefore, the amino acid signature for viruses are currently published in bioinformatic journals. A friend of mine is working on his CS doctorate, writing a sequencer that will sequence a virus (Hep C if you care) in under a week. Plus a bunch of other crap that blows my mind.

In this case, not only is the sequence published, so is the program. So if you happen to have a million dollar sequencer, you could do this yourself :)

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

SportyGeek (694769) | more than 7 years ago | (#17998150)

Your friend's work sounds exciting. Your friend may be writing a program, but it does not do the sequencing. The sequencer (Sanger, 454, Solexa, etc) and base-calling software does all of that. Is your friend working on a comparative genome assembler like the AMOS Assembler [] ? I'd be very interested to find out :)

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17994084)

Hey, I've chosen a career path that gives me work I enjoy and a paycheck I really enjoy. It's a good business model, but I'm certainly not helping the state of affairs in infectious diseases.

I bet it's the same way with you, right?

So why should pharmaceutical companies be any different?

(Heck, since Novartis is actually working with infectious diseases, and is actually releasing some of their work product, they're already doing more to help the state of affairs in infectious diseases than the two of us put together.)

Re:Yeah, but... (2, Interesting)

harvardian (140312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988378)

As a clarification, this research isn't part of the Human Genome Project. It's research that uses the results from the human genome project to identify genes associated with diabetes.

Or, in Slashdot-ese:

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

To draw a long bow on the subject... (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989452)

Very true. Closed source as you put it, led to the problems of Vioxx (Rofecoxib) and Celebrex (Celecoxib) cover ups with regards to heart attack risk, in the sense that the drug companies were not forthcoming on research which showed negative outcomes and only sold the good news to the FDA (although this is now a prohibited practice). This is not going to happen very often any more, since the payouts from lost lawsuits far outweigh the profits.

Placing the genetic information into the open arena may result in more research on diabetes, but I am fairly sure the move is designed to play into the drug company's hands, since they undoubtedly have withheld other information which may prove to be valuable, or is already the basis of research which the company believes will score them a marketable drug. In a sense, other researchers can do the expensive research while the drug company sits back and incorporates the results of other people's work into its own findings.

Now to speculate a bit more, it may well be that the drug company can't really do any broader research without having this information leaked (ie: they need to provide this data to labs around the world, which means too many people will know and it's too easy to let the cat out of the bag). Therefore it is easier to publish the information and look good at the same time. The only way to avoid leaked information is to run the company's operations from one or two very large research facilities, which probably limits their potential employee base and leads to intellectual incest (a bit like Redmond!).

Maybe drug companies are coming to realize that centralized, monolithic R&D is not the cheapest way to get the work done, and that much of their research can be done more cheaply in smaller, possibly independent outfits whose incentive is to obtain a small royalty for the research they can then sell to the drug companies.

Are you sure you want to be open? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17994906)

If the human body was meant to be open we would have evolved zips.

BioCrusty losers give away information (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987590)

The web is the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo. Someone like Forbes investor Bono or world famous philanthropist Bill Gates could be making money off all this information. The human genome contains intellectual property belonging to SCO.

Dan Lyons

Look you worthless hippies, this is my most coherent article yet

Speaking of which.. (0)

Ravear (923203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987622)

Any of you 3 Womans on slashdot wanna give away some genetic research? []

Re:Speaking of which.. (4, Funny)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987844)

Any of you 3 Womans on slashdot wanna give away some genetic research? []

Clearly you went straight to the naked pictures and skipped the second sentence of the article you link that points out that the plural of "woman" is "women" and not "Womans". Not that the post would have been funny if you could spell.

Re:Speaking of which.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988112)

There are naked pictures?

Remember this: (2, Insightful)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987640)

As a research scientist this move doesn't sound too strange.
However keep in mind that they are not providing the world with their raw data.
Rest assured that the milked it for anything that could give a profit, stripped that off and released the rest.
This is how it happens with large scale datasets all the time.

An example of what should be done! (2, Interesting)

gavink42 (1000674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987644)

This is exactly how it should be for all the other nasty diseases we humans suffer from. Cancer, HIV, etc... maybe even the common cold could be brought down some levels with enough folks with access to all the data.

Re:An example of what should be done! (3, Informative)

SportyGeek (694769) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987918)

There is actually a lot of data associated with human disease that has been made available to the public. There are three main DNA databases throughout the world: NCBI from the US [] , EMBL from Europe [] , and DDBJ from Japan [] . These public sequence databases have a plethora of links associated with them that you can explore and find out more about the biology of human disease from sequences to academic papers. An example of is the The Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. The down side, of course, is that many of the newer papers require a subscription to read in their entirety.

Re:An example of what should be done! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987976)

and then maybe we can all frolic in the shire, and use dandelion money to create new therapeutics!!

Re:An example of what should be done! (1)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988976)

The data on the common cold has been available for a long time. Have you accessed it recently?

A step in the right direction (5, Informative)

nickv111 (1026562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987730)

Patents on the medical and biological industry, while potentially good for the companies, are truly terrible for the rest of the world. The last thing we need is more expensive medicine, and having biological trade secrets released will help humanity as a whole.

I've done a little research on AIDS, for example, and to give you an example of what patents do for the cost of medicine, take a look at this quote from the New York Times article, "Look at Brazil." []

"Until a year ago, the triple therapy that has made AIDS a manageable disease in wealthy nations was considered realistic only for those who could afford to pay $10,000 to $15,000 a year or lived in societies that could."

In developing countries, the cost of patented medication is the reason why many families cannot afford it and so many suffer from it. Now look at another quote from the same article:

"Brazil now produces some triple therapy for $3,000 a year and expects to do much better, and the price could potentially drop to $700 a year or even less."

Many countries cannot do this for fear of economic sanctions, which means the next logical step would be for companies to open up their medical and biological information, for the good of humanity. Not only will this help potential consumers of this medication, but also provide a base for other companies to build on to excel each other's knowledge.

obsession with cost (1, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988462)

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

Don't worry, it's not a problem if millions die now, they will die anyway, to have this research done means more than to lose even a billion people to a disease.

Re:obsession with cost (0, Troll)

quixos (780763) | more than 7 years ago | (#17992222)

"Don't worry, it's not a problem if millions die now, they will die anyway, to have this research done means more than to lose even a billion people to a disease. Cheers." how cheerful will you feel, when it is you doing the dying?

Re:obsession with cost (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#17993344)

This question is irrelevant, the subject never feels good about his/her own demise, this doesn't change the fact that I am correct.

Re:obsession with cost (2, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 7 years ago | (#18007304)

I do not see any problems with them being able to charge and arm and a leg for the treatment, after all, if you do not pay the arm and the leg, you will lose both arms, both legs, the torso and the head to the disease.

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

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

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


Supply & Demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988514)

What we really need is more people with AIDS... this would give other companies incentive to start producing the drug, the increased competition would drive prices down.. supply shouldn't be a problem if it can be guaranteed the # of people suffering from AIDS continues to rise in 1st world nations. My suggestion would be to ban condom use as a way to kick-start the market.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

Hebbinator (1001954) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988732)

An excellent article, but the catch is this. The reason that AIDS drugs exist is because of research. Drug companies have to pay for research, and research costs an extraordinary amount of money.

Especially with a disease like HIV, more and more research is needed to combat the ever-changing virus. AIDS today is not AIDS of a few years ago, and even with excellent compliance to medical regimen, our current array of antivirals will soon be inadequate therapy for HIV and AIDS patients.

Now, I agree that 10-15k a year is a lot for medicine, especially if it is a lifesaving and widespread phenomena like AIDS (there are some drugs in the hospital which cost several thousand dollars to produce a dose, but are very rarely needed) and that drug companies should do much much much more to make these drugs available and affordable. However, cutting them off at the neck, violating their patents which cost billions to develop, and giving them nothing in return as Brazil has done will end up stunting research entirely, which nobody wants.

Drug companies need to seriously re-think their distribution and pricing for the sake of humanity. The world needs to support drug companies financially to promote research and new medicines. What we need here is a happy medium.

Novartis fighting India over generic drugs (2, Interesting)

Christian Engstrom (633834) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988828)

You are quite right when you say that patent may be good for the pharmaceutical companies, but are terrible for the rest of the world.

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

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

The struggle for affordable medicines

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

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

Re:A step in the right direction (2, Insightful)

DoctorPhil (875161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988964)

By your reasoning, nickv111, everybody would get everything cheaper if patent terms were shorter, or eliminated. And copyrights - they're a lot like patents. We should eliminate them, too. Then everybody could get everything for free!

Just like Soviet Russia. You can have everything in an empty shop for free.

The real cause of high prices in medications is the FDA approval process. It costs, on AVERAGE, about a BILLION dollars to get a drug approved in the US. A patent lasts 20 years, and it takes at least 10 years to get a drug approved. This means the pharma company has 10 years to recover their $1 billion investment.

Only, $1 billion invested over a period of 10 years is not the same as $1 billion at the time they start selling the drug, let alone $1 billion at tne END of that 10-year window! In order to have high enough profits to maintain their stock value, their investments have to appreciate at roughly 20% per year. If you spend $1 billion over 10 years, at the end of those 10 years, that $1 billion now is worth $3.01 billion. That doesn't mean that you have 10 years to make back $3 billion - that investment's sunk cost keeps increasing, to $9 billion by the end of those 10 years!

So, in fact, the pharama company has to make $900,000,000 in PROFIT, each year for 10 years, just to make up for the cost of getting FDA approval. That's apart from the cost of inventing the drug, manufacturing it, advertising it, and distributing it.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

DoctorPhil (875161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989270)

Oops - part of that math is wrong.

$3 billion, after 10 years at 20% interest, is $18 billion. To make money at a rate such that, after 10 years, they will have made as much money as if they had invested it at 20%, the company has to make a profit of about $600,000,000 per year.

The figure of 20% may be too high for large, stable companies. I don't know what the right figure would be. 10% is obviously too low.

Re:A step in the right direction (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989640)

So, in fact, the pharama company has to make $900,000,000 in PROFIT, each year for 10 years, just to make up for the cost of getting FDA approval.

      You know, drug companies don't suddenly stop making profit once the patent expires and competition begins. Look at how many companies sell plain old acetyl-salicilate (aka aspirin). They're obviously making money. So that's the first hole in your argument right there.

      Secondly, drug companies seem to forget that not everyone has a US income level. The price of medication is the same or more expensive outside the US than inside. This is to prevent people from "smuggling" meds into the US that were bought cheaper elsewhere. God forbid! So instead of getting into a 20 times bigger WORLD market, they decide to produce less, at a higher price. North americans can afford it - barely. And only the upper class everywhere else. And the rest, well, they just die younger. Who cares, right?

      Oh and as a doctor I've been invited to many, MANY dinners - at 5 star hotels, by pharmaceutical companies. I've had friends who have been flown to exotic locations for conferences on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. They want to give me lots of promotional things, from notepads to calculators and clocks, trying to recruit me as a salesman - they think my prescription pad is for hire. This costs money too.

      If only they understood that although I might read about the new wonderdrug in medical journals, what I usually prescribe is the cheapest medication around. It's what my patients want. I always give them a choice - the latest thing is X, the cheapest is Y. Invariably they choose Y.

      Big pharma should get that in their heads. The old products that they are still selling, even without patents, is what should fund the research. Someone who has taken lipitor for the past 10 years and is happy with it is probably not going to change in the NEXT 10 years.

      They should not gouge people on a new med because a) they can, due to a monopoly situation and b) try to justify this gouging because of "the cost of research".

      But then again, pharmacology has always been about commerce and making money. Healing the patient is incidental.

Re:A step in the right direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17991454)

Where are my mod points when I need them.
I have a relative who is a dentist. You would'nt believe the amount of "free" stuff that she gets sent. At any one time we have about 400 or so of those small sized toothpaste tubes, and a very diverse collection of toothbrushes etc.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

Nyph2 (916653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17997960)

You know, drug companies don't suddenly stop making profit once the patent expires and competition begins. Look at how many companies sell plain old acetyl-salicilate (aka aspirin). They're obviously making money. So that's the first hole in your argument right there.

The issue with this is it's any company getting this money, not a government enforced monopoly. To the company who paid for R&D, this is looks like a bad deal. What needs to happen is something like the government buying these patents off the companies who did the R&D, at a profit of some reasonable level, and then opening up the production of the drug to anyone who wants to make it. Something like this would both allow the free market to work & still give benifits to those who persue R&D.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

DoctorPhil (875161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18046978)

You completely ignored my point, which was that you could lower the cost of the drugs by lowering the cost of FDA approval. European approval is not so outrageously expensive.

Re:A step in the right direction (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 7 years ago | (#17993034)

By your reasoning, nickv111, everybody would get everything cheaper if patent terms were shorter, or eliminated. And copyrights - they're a lot like patents. We should eliminate them, too. Then everybody could get everything for free! Just like Soviet Russia.

You bring up an interesting point. Soviet Russia used invasive government coercion to benefit the public good. Now patent law uses invasive government coercion to benefit the public good.

In the end, the countries that let their people produce without punishing them, are the ones that will be prosperous.

Re:A step in the right direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17993236)

drug companies have to make a profit. we would not have any significant medicines without this model. neither government nor universities can fully research and bring a drug to market.

Human Metabolome Database (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987830)

Open Source Biology is the wave of the future. As Bruce Sterling says, the future is already here, but unequally dsitributed.

Example (kind of Ribopunk) of the great new Human Metabolome Database and how it can be mashed-up:

The Human Metabolome Database is an extremely important new comprehensive searchable online resource. It is a central encyclopedia about chemicals, embedded in us.

See the home page at: []

"The Human Metabolome Database (HMDB) is a freely available electronic
database containing detailed information about small molecule
metabolites found in the human body. It is intended to be used for
applications in metabolomics, clinical chemistry, biomarker discovery
and general education. The database is designed to contain or link
three kinds of data: 1) chemical data, 2) clinical data, and 3)
molecular biology/biochemistry data...."

or the browsable Metabolomics Toolbox at: pts/browse.cgi?hits=20&browsn=1&pag=1&acco=11 []

Dark Bands in the Human Spectrum
Jonathan Vos Post
1 Feb 2007

What is the human body made of? An odd way to answer this is with the inverse question: What is the human body NOT made of? I can give an answer in the following sense: for what natural numbers (i.e. positive integers) is there no ion or molecule found in significant quantities in a human being, which has that number as the average atomic or molecular weight, rounded down?

Humans have lots of water, and thus lots of hydrogen atoms and hydrogen ions, both of whose molecular weights (1.00783) round down to the integer 1. Heavy water (Deuterium oxide) has already been figured in by our using an average molecular weight, which this considers both protium (hydrogen with no neutron) and deuterium (hydrogen with a neutron, molecular weight averaged down to 2). There is not going to be a measurable amount of radioactive tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons) whose atomic weight rounds down to 3. The human body has essentially no helium (atomic
weight rounded down to 3 for the rare light isotope, rounded down to 4 for the rare light isotope). The human body, assuming this is not a person taking lithium as treatment for depression, has nothing of molecular weight 5, 6, or 7. Beryllium is rare, and a poison. So there is a gap in the average molecular weight mass spectrum of a human which is covered by the integers 2 through 10. There should be no atomic
carbon in a human body, not counting gunshot residue or charcoal from grilling or sketching, hence no 12 or 13. Carbon is in humans, but bound up in organic molecules.

In summary, the integers representing mass gaps in the
human spectrum include: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42, 49, 52, 53, 56, 64, 66, 69, 70, 82, 91, 95, 98, 99.

We'll look higher, but these "dark bands" will become rare...

Source of data: the Human Metabolome Data Base

On 1/31/07, Jonathan Post wrote:
  Sorted (by hand) by molecular weight

  HMDB02106 1.00783 Hydrogen ion
  HMDB01362 1.00783 Hydrogen
  HMDB02386 11.00930 Boron
  HMDB02714 16.03130 Methane
  HMDB01039 17.00274 Hydroxide
  HMDB00051 17.02655 Ammonia
  HMDB02111 18.01060 Water
  HMDB00662 18.99840 Fluorine
  HMDB00588 22.98980 Sodium
  HMDB00547 23.98504 Magnesium
  HMDB02084 26.00307 Cyanide
  HMDB02175 27.97690 Silicon
  HMDB01361 27.99490 Carbon
  HMDB01371 28.00610 Nitrogen
  HMDB03378 29.99799 Nitric oxide
  HMDB01426 30.01056 Formaldehyde
  HMDB01315 30.97380 Phosphorus
  HMDB00164 31.04220 Methylamine
  HMDB02983 31.04220 Methylamine Hydrochloride
  HMDB00598 31.97210 Sulfur
  HMDB01377 31.98980 Oxygen
  HMDB02168 31.98983 Superoxide
  HMDB01875 32.02621 Methanol
  HMDB03338 33.02150 Hydroxylamine
  HMDB00983 33.98770 Hydrogen Sulfide
  HMDB00492 34.96885 Chlorine
  HMDB02162 35.97670 Hydrochloric acid
  HMDB02306 35.97670 Hydrochloric acid
  HMDB00586 38.96371 Potassium
  HMDB00464 39.96260 Calcium
  HMDB02078 43.00580 Cyanate
  HMDB01967 43.98980 Carbon Dioxide
  HMDB00990 44.02621 Acetaldehyde
  HMDB01536 45.02146 Formamide
  HMDB00087 45.05785 Dimethylamine
  HMDB00142 46.00548 Formic acid
  HMDB00108 46.04186 Ethanol
  HMDB01382 47.00070 Nitrite
  HMDB03227 48.00337 Methanethiol
  HMDB02503 50.94400 Vanadium
  HMDB01050 50.96377 Hypochlorite
  HMDB00599 51.94050 Chromium
  HMDB01333 54.93800 Manganese
  HMDB00692 55.93490 Iron
  HMDB02457 57.93530 Nickel
  HMDB01659 58.04186 Acetone
  HMDB03366 58.04190 Propanal
  HMDB00608 58.93320 Cobalt
  HMDB01842 59.04835 Guanidine
  HMDB01869 59.03710 Acetamide
  HMDB03656 59.03710 Acetaldehyde oxime
  HMDB00906 59.07350 Trimethylamine
  HMDB03551 60.00855 Carbamate
  HMDB03344 60.02110 Glycolaldehyde
  HMDB00042 60.02113 Acetic acid
  HMDB00294 60.03236 Urea
  HMDB00820 60.05751 Propyl alcohol
  HMDB00863 60.05751 Isopropyl alcohol
  HMDB00595 60.99257 Hydrogen Carbonate
  HMDB00149 61.05276 Ethanolamine
  HMDB02179 61.98782 Peroxynitrite
  HMDB02878 61.98782 Nitrate
  HMDB03538 62.00040 Carbonic acid
  HMDB02303 62.01902 Dimethylsulfide
  HMDB01887 62.03678 Ethylene glycol
  HMDB00657 62.92960 Copper
  HMDB01853 62.99560 Nitrate
  HMDB01303 63.92910 Zinc
  HMDB03276 65.95979 Hydrogen sulfide
  HMDB02077 67.96650 Chlorite
  HMDB01525 68.03745 Imidazole
  HMDB04101 71.06092 beta-Aminopropionitrile
  HMDB01167 72.02113 Pyruvaldehyde
  HMDB03543 72.05750 Butanal
  HMDB00474 72.05751 Butanone
  HMDB01106 73.05276 3-Aminopropionaldehyde
  HMDB02134 73.05276 Aminoacetone
  HMDB01522 73.06400 Methylguanidine
  HMDB02501 73.92120 Germanium
  HMDB00119 74.00039 Glyoxylic acid
  HMDB00237 74.03678 Propionic acid
  HMDB03052 74.03678 Lactaldehyde
  HMDB03453 74.03680 3-Hydroxypropanal
  HMDB04327 74.07320 1-Butanol
  HMDB00002 74.08440 1,3-Diaminopropane
  HMDB00123 75.03203 Glycine
  HMDB00925 75.06841 Trimethylamine oxide
  HMDB00115 76.01604 Glycolic acid
  HMDB01881 76.05243 1,2-Propanediol
  HMDB02808 76.05243 1,3-Propanediol
  HMDB02991 77.02992 Cysteamine
  HMDB02151 78.01390 Dimethyl sulfoxide
  HMDB01505 78.04695 Benzene
  HMDB02500 78.91834 Bromine
  HMDB00926 79.04220 Pyridine
  HMDB01349 79.91652 Selenium
  HMDB00240 79.95681 Sulfite
  HMDB01033 80.96464 Hydrogen Sulfite
  HMDB03008 81.97246 Bisulfite
  HMDB03929 83.04830 5-Aminoimidazole
  HMDB02036 83.96140 Chloric acid
  HMDB04363 84.03240 Imidazolone
  HMDB02039 85.05276 2-Pyrrolidinone
  HMDB00549 86.03678 4-Deoxytetronic acid
  HMDB02523 86.03678 Oxolan-3-one
  HMDB03407 86.03680 Diacetyl
  HMDB01080 87.06841 4-Aminobutyraldehyde
  HMDB03642 87.90560 Strontium
  HMDB01880 87.97966 Hydrogen Oxalate
  HMDB00243 88.01604 Pyruvic acid
  HMDB00039 88.05243 Butyric acid
  HMDB01873 88.05243 Isobutyric acid
  HMDB03243 88.05243 Acetoin
  HMDB01414 88.10005 Putrescine
  HMDB02435 89.01129 (hydroxyimino)-Acetic acid
  HMDB00056 89.04768 b-Alanine
  HMDB00161 89.04768 L-Alanine
  HMDB00271 89.04768 Sarcosine
  HMDB02329 89.99531 Oxalic acid
  HMDB00190 90.03169 L-Lactic acid
  HMDB00700 90.03169 Hydroxypropionic acid
  HMDB01051 90.03169 Glyceraldehyde
  HMDB01311 90.03169 D-Lactic acid
  HMDB01882 90.03169 Dihydroxyacetone
  HMDB03156 90.06808 2,3-Butanediol
  HMDB03692 90.06810 (S,S)-Butane-2,3-diol
  HMDB00131 92.04734 Glycerol
  HMDB03012 93.05785 Aniline
  HMDB04983 94.00890 Dimethyl sulfone
  HMDB00228 94.04186 Phenol
  HMDB01429 94.95510 Phosphate
  HMDB00979 96.95955 Hydrogen Sulfate
  HMDB00973 96.96907 Hydrogen phosphate
  HMDB02105 96.96907 Dihydrogen Phosphate
  HMDB01302 97.90540 Molybdenum
  HMDB02934 97.96738 Sulfuric acid
  HMDB01448 97.96740 Sulfate

I call BS (4, Interesting)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987914)

What this means is they can't figure out how to use the info before the patents expire. The idea that novartis or any other drug company would let loose proprietary info on a gene they thought would lead them to a drug for diabetes is ludicrous.

Open Source Genetics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17987948)

Wonder if it would be possible for someone to open source their DNA and thus protect themselves from paternity suits? It could certainly provide for an interesting court arguement. It would also be potentially frightening who might show up and demand a download.

Good for Novartis (1)

guspasho (941623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987964)

But will anyone who uses this information for their own research follow suit? I strongly doubt this single act of gracious openness will inspire any other big pharmco to do the same with whatever findings they come across using this free information.

Cures or Suppressants? (0, Troll)

Intangible Fact (1001781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17987978)

Q: Why won't they release a cure to the general public?

A: They make to much money off of suppressants.

Only use the cures on the rich "important" people that have a few million to blow.


They've already got 20,000 patents lined up (1)

FeatherBoa (469218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988208)

I suspect that they have 20,000 patents already lined up, one on each of the interesting genes. With this they could enlist others to do the leg work to figure out how to use the gene information, secure in the knowledge that they can use their patents to get a piece of whatever anyone comes up with.

Pharma patents are the worst of an evil bunch.

Re:They've already got 20,000 patents lined up (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989394)

I suspect that they have 20,000 patents already lined up, one on each of the interesting genes.

      That's ok. I've patented all the STOP codons. No one can make a protein without handing me cash. Be warned! :P

Hurray! (2, Insightful)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988338)

This sounds like pretty good news. While I see nothing wrong with corporations wanting to make a profit, there are, I think, serious ethical problems with withholding information that could save many lives. And in particular, I think that the information in the human genome is something that belongs to all of humankind. Working together, not only will lives be saved and enhanced, but some serious money will be made as well, sooner rather than later.

Post title is misleading, but parallels do exist (2, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988540)

This is not really about 'open source', it's about 'Big Pharma' trying to address its problems by leveraging its (diminishing) assets, and trying to access multiple sources of innovation. See the informative article in 'The Economist' - Jan 25th - 'Billion dollar pills' ( Since it's a subscription site, here are a few extracts, (fair use): "The industry's share prices have performed pitifully and a new report from Accenture, a consultancy, calculates that a whopping $1 trillion of "enterprise value", which measures future profitability, has been wiped out because investors have lost faith in drugmakers' growth prospects" "Three of the biggest drugs firms have brought in new bosses to help turn things around." "The risks have been compounded by vertical integration" "Mr Kindler [new boss of Pfizer] also wants his secretive researchers to open up and work more closely with outsiders. He has put the company's drugs pipeline on the internet for all to scrutinise and declared his intention to pursue outside collaborations and acquisitions keenly. There's much more, but the underlying truth is that large corporations seem to have to have problems 'institutionalising innovation', and thus end up like Cisco, Microsoft & others - spending fortunes on R&D, but then spending even more on buying ideas in from start-ups or Academe. You can bet that as soon as someone finds a use for this information, 'Big Pharma' will be there with it's chequebook wide open. Is that a bad thing? Well, as another poster noted, perhaps it would be better if so-called 'underdeveloped' countries had the rights to produce & distribute in their local markets. Of course, another wildcard could be the Bill & Melinda et al. foundation. That would be ironic, the 'king' of closed-source using his $ to finance a somewhat 'open-source' model.

Re:Post title is misleading, but parallels do exis (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989342)

large corporations seem to have to have problems 'institutionalising innovation', and thus end up like Cisco, Microsoft & others - spending fortunes on R&D, but then spending even more on buying ideas in from start-ups or Academe.

      As a physician I am often shocked to think about how much pharmaceutical companies charge for medications. Especially considering that my practice is in the "third world", price is the absolute foremost concern for all my patients when it comes to prescribing a medication. They will often insist on an inferior generic product instead of paying three or four times as much for a newer, better drug. I understand that research is expensive.

      I also know that a lot of money is spent "visiting" doctors trying to convince us that their product is the "best", organizing "conferences" for us (which are nothing more than sales pitches) with free dinner included, etc. Not to mention all the free pens, calculators, calendars and other promotional materials. Some of my colleagues virtually thrive on this stuff. I for one would rather see cheaper medication. Less price, higher volume is what I think they should be looking at. And if they can't make profit on volume, then they should stop trying to push that product as if it was the new Holy Grail - only the very rich will buy it - period.

      A case in point - the vaccine for HPV (cervical cancer's principle cause). It costs over $300 PER DOSE and you need 3 doses. Whoa, that's $1000. With the average monthly salary at around $350 a month here, how many of those do they expect to sell? Even in the US a lot of people would stop and think about this. And how many do they expect me to keep on hand in my fridge at that price, taking into account expiration dates, breakages, etc? Great concept. Completely useless at that price.

      Anyway, my $.02 worth. They shouldn't complain about being unprofitable - they've priced themselves out of the market. People will always get sick. They just can't afford to pay for the medication anymore.

what is the price of invention? (1)

Thomas the Doubter (1016806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990752)

they've priced themselves out of the market. People will always get sick. They just can't afford to pay for the medication anymore.
There is a big confusion in this thread between generic drugs and on-patent drugs. It is barely acknowleged that a new drug costs close to a billion dollars to develop (yes, these costs are seperate from the marketing) - there is no understanding what it takes to recoup these costs - and if they are not recouped, guess what - close to no new drugs.
The major drug companies have indeed hit something of a wall - the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and new advances are much more hard-won at this point. If I may use economic language: the drug industry was enjoying a much less steep marginal investment-risk curve - each million invested was much more likely to produce some profit above the million invested. Now development of each promising novel drug entity is like a new space program - and the risks are just about as high (up to including people's lives). So, to ask that a new drug, fresh from the labs and monsterous investment in testing should be sold for 50 cents a pill, is simply illogical - that is almost like asking that the space shuttle program be cancelled because the flights are too expensive and you personally cannot afford a ticket.

Biology was already open source (4, Insightful)

Puff Daddy (678869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988592)

The study of biology was already open source. There is a wealth of data at the NCBI [] and other sources. We are seeing a renaissance in molecular biology right now and I, for one, attribute it to the hard work of thousands of researchers freely sharing their work. It's not just the data either, it's [] journals [] and software [] , too. We have more information than we know how to handle, and it's being created much faster than it will ever be understood. It's gotten to a point where new fields of study are being created just to interpret the collected data and try to make some sense of it. Bioinformatics and computational biology are truly amazing fields, the only trouble is attempting to explain just what it is you do to friends and relatives. Trust me, it's not always easy.

this is the result of work started in 2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17988614)

Novartis announced this (funding and sharing) in October, 2004; I guess they now have some results.

Why this hype? (3, Interesting)

aschoff_nodule (890870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988650)

This is not the first time this has happened.

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

Not to mention the federal govt. has been doing this forever now and 'Human Genome Project' and 'Hapmap project' are well known.

Finally (1)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 7 years ago | (#17988930)

A little bit of sanity in this world.

OK, so now it's Open Source (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17989144)

Where do I commit my code?

Why did novartis do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17989426)

Because the people I work with wouldn't have participated in the data generation and analysis if the data wasn't free and open. I believe that the data had to be 'open sourced' within something like 6 weeks of when we agreed that the generation of said data was finished.

If they had the money, the deals we do with companies like Affy, and the expertise to do this on their own, why would they open source it? This is really a story of how powerful some parts of academia are becoming, that we can FORCE research to be open, or not support it (and correspondingly, how dependent biotechs are on our abilities.)

Yes, I was on this project (at the Broad), and participated in the analysis.

What do we mean by Open Source? (2, Insightful)

Ignis Flatus (689403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990102)

If I invent something, but keep the details of my invention a secret, then that is certainly not free and not Open Source. But if I patent my invention, the use of the idea is still not free, but the knowledge practically is. Are patents Open Source?

The reason I'm asking this is I wasn't sure from the article if the company was actually giving anything away. It is not clear to me if I invent a new drug based off the information they provided, do I now owe them a royalty?

Open Source by patent (or copyright) is a great idea if you think you can make more money off licenses to others than by your own efforts. Secrecy is better if you think that your information is based on special insight and others will not be able to duplicate it independently for several decades. What they gave away (assuming they gave anything away) may not have much intrinsic value if it is easily duplicated by others.

Some good news (1)

sproketboy (608031) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990312)

For a change!

If I had power... (1)

DimGeo (694000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17990348)

... I would immediately order the full and complete release of any and all "IP" pertaining to human genome into the public domain. On the threat of capital punishment for failure to comply.

ma8e (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17990662)

is Per,haps

Minus 4, TrolL) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17990972)

Releasing the data is good but not enough (1)

dnarepair (936270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17993622)

I applaud this and other companies who are releasing more and more of their data. However, lets not get too carried away with glorifying the biotech community for what appears to have been done here. The data release by Novartis and Broad is unusual in that there are few if any restrictions on the use of the data. But most of the other data I have seen from companies is released with so many restrictions on its use that it becomes almost worse to have seen it than not.

Celera Genomics and Human Genome Project (1)

bliz1985 (923307) | more than 7 years ago | (#17995198)

And on the other spectrum, Celera is using publicly available data from HGP while not allowing HGP to use their data freely.

Who did this research? (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17995248)

In my daily paper it says this research was done by an international team that was co-led by Dr. Constantin Polychronakos of Montreal's McGill university. Maybe it is "open biology" because it was done by university scientists whose mission is doing public research, and not because Novartis suddenly got all philanthropic?

public domain not open source? (1)

crimperman (225941) | more than 7 years ago | (#17996272)

Nothing in TFA or from the Novartis or sites indicates that there is any licencing of the content they are making available. AFAICS they are giving it away free of charge and without restriction. This is public domain not open source isn't it?

Also they are giving away the results of the research (e.g. data) - open source is not normally a term used in such circumstances. The Creative Commons licences (among others) were created because typical open source/free (as in speech) licencing models do not suit data.

Now whilst I applaud them for not keeping this research under wraps I think it's wrong to call it "open source." Having said that I feel that perhaps some kind of condition _should_ have been attached to the research data. If only to stop someone analysing it and then keeping their analysis secret.

stop using OS in the wrong context (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17996552)

"Open source" is kind of "open technology". It has to do with some new _invention_

Giving up raw data is not "open technology". It is "open data". Does not involve new _invention_, just digging the facts.
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