Scientist calls for open sourcing malaria vaccine creation

A scientist from the University of Sydney's School of Chemistry recently led a meeting called the Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria to discuss applying the open source model to discovering new malaria drugs.

Mat Todd previously used the open source approach to create a new method of medicine production currently used worldwide for the treatment of the parasitic disease bilharzia. Todd won the Emerging Research category of the NSW Science and Engineering Awards in 2011 for that innovation, Health Canal reports.

"The open nature of the work means there are no patents and that any technology is both academically and commercially exploitable by whoever wishes to do so," Todd said, according to Health Canal.

By using the open source method, drug research on malaria can be conducted and shared in real time without the burden of patents. The development of new drugs is typically done in a closed way by pharmaceutical companies that fund research to own the resulting treatments.

"This makes business sense, as there are huge profits to be made from new pharmaceuticals," Todd said, Health Canal reports. "However, there are a number of diseases that simply do not interest pharmaceutical companies, because there's little money to be made from these drugs. These diseases are normally ones affecting developing nations, such as malaria."

Todd anticipates that using the open source process for malaria drugs will greatly improve the early phases of drug discovery.

"I see the discussion as part of a wider series of discussions about how we're doing science, and research more generally, in a very different way... not just about the malaria problem itself and how to tackle it, but also some of the problems that come up as we move to new science methods, and open innovation and open science," Mary O'Kane, the chief scientist and engineer at NSW, said, according to Health Canal.