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Rodrigo Lozano

Nacel Open Door

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Make pharmacological companies share research with others.

What if we make every pharmacological company submit their researches to a common database that can be accessed by any other pharmacological company on Earth? That way one company can make further progress on another one's research or initiate another one taking the knowledge of the previous as a base.

It entails taking the concept of sharing ideas to a new level, somehow controversial because we are talking about private capital, so I'd like to know what other people think. Would this be effective or not? Would this make the discovery of new types of medicine faster or not? Is there a better approach to quickening the discovery of such new medicine?

Please share your thoughts!

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  • Nov 26 2013: Not a terribly good idea, at least until the patent for that particular data wears off.
    Pharmaceutical companies need to make a living, same as anyone else. Medicine isn't developed via goodwill, monumental budgets are involved, and the only way to support those is by selling at a profit.

    I suppose you could open source the whole thing if you move pharmaceutical research over to the public sector from the private one, though it'd be terribly expensive (the system will no longer support itself, taxes will prop it up), and it may adversely affect productivity.
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    Dec 1 2013: I had recently heard this story from a consultant about a case he was working on. There were 2 European pharmaceutical companies ( A & B) in the race for developing a cure for Hepatitis B. Both companies came up with drugs, one with a 2 tablet daily dose and other with a 3 tablet daily dose, having a 70% and 60% efficiency respectively. But together the efficiency would be about 90%. He had to tell company B whether to conduct joint research and improve the efficiency or not.

    He called this situation an "Ethical Dilemma" as he had to choose between a better cure or a company's profit.

    But what he surprisingly found out was by the time the process patent by company B ended, they would have perfected their drug to 95% efficiency, given their resources and current research on it. This would make them a monopoly player in the market without compromising on the quality of the cure.

    So I believe, a common database would pose a similar "Ethical Dilemma" with no certainty of the better option.
    • Dec 3 2013: Great story! I guess you are right, there is no exact way to know which option is better so I believe it should be left up to the companies themselves as Harald Jezek suggested. What troubles me is that a certain company may end up creating a monopoly just to maximize growth as in your example and setting the price at unaffordable levels to most people. I guess that's a problem to be discussed in another TED conversation.

      Well, thanks for sharing!
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        Dec 3 2013: Whether the prices will skyrocket or not will depend on how common is the disease, is it contagious and can it cause a pandemic. In some cases even the state plays a major role by subsidizing the cost of drugs.
        Its a valid point and definitely should be part of another conversations.
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    Nov 28 2013: Probably the pharmaceutical industry is the worst possible example for information sharing.
    Do you know how much it can cost to develop a new drug ? Depending on which study you believe it can be somewhere between 500 Million to 2 billion USD.
    So, companies probably won't be that happy to share their secrets for which the just spent that much money.
    One way of information sharing and cooperation are joint ventures. 2 or more companies join there efforts for a common goal. This is fairly common practice in the industry.
    • Nov 29 2013: So in order to make the discovery of new medicine faster, would you recommend that States foster joint ventures in some way like tax reduction?
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        Nov 29 2013: You don't need to get the sate involved. If companies see there are synergies they usually find each other to create a joint venture.
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    Dec 1 2013: Yes, this could prove effective and can speed up processes too; Making of a cordial agreement and fair terms and conditions for this is what is difficult. It looks more like an idea that will remain an idea; but if at all this happens then it will be a big help for so many.
    • Dec 3 2013: I agree, this idea will only remain an idea. The problem is being able to share the knowledge of the research without compromising the revenue. Sadly, this could result in a stagnation of research, which would be the opposite of the effect intended.
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    Nov 30 2013: If the profit motive is removed, how will the research and development be funded?
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    Nov 26 2013: I think that it could be effective; union is always more efficient, and it's possible that union / sharing could make faster the search and discovery of new types of chemical or technics. But, at the same time, I think it is near utopian because economic insterests; don't forget modern research needs a lot of money and we run into the eternal and known difficulty.
    Good idea, that yours, however. :)