Cancer research goes open

June 23, 2008 | 09:43

Tags: #cancer

Companies: #glaxosmithkline #open-source #research

It's all to easy to think of Open Source and its ideals as only applying to software, but some companies see the 'bazaar' method of development coming in handy outside the realms of computing too.

Medical giant GlaxoSmithKline has announced that it will be donating a wodge of research on cancer cells to the US National Cancer Institute for online researchers to pore over. The data, which covers the genomic profiling of over three hundred strains of cancer cell, will be made available over the NCI's cancer Bioinformatics Grid. The caBIG is a network designed to allow researchers to collate and share data during their research into the causes of – and possible cures for – all types of cancer.

Paolo Poletti, senior vice president of GSK's Oncology Medicines R&D group, stated that “these data are valuable for many avenues of cancer research, and we are pleased to share them with the cancer community.

Obviously, GlaxoSmithKline gets something out of the deal too: by freeing their data, the company has made it much more likely that a breakthrough will be discovered due to the increase in researchers with access to it. Once a breakthrough has been made at no cost to the company, the researchers are going to be looking for someone to fund further development – and who better to go to than the source of the original data? Cunning.

Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see companies beginning to see the advantages of open source development and taking a step back from the secretive closed source approach to research and development. Who knows: perhaps it might result in the breakthrough the world has been waiting for.

Do you believe GlaxoSmithKline has the worlds' best interests at heart, or is it a cynical ploy to get number crunching done on the cheap? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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