GlaxoSmithKline open sources potential malaria cures
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
The chief executive of the world’s second biggest pharmaceutical company will today announce that he is putting into the public domain thousands of potential drugs that might cure malaria.
Andrew Witty, the British boss of Glaxo-SmithKline, will say in a major speech that multinational drug companies have to balance social responsibility alongside the need to make profits for their shareholders. There is, he will say, an “imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them”.
GSK will publish details of 13,500 chemical compounds from its own library that have potential to act against the parasite that causes malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, killing at least one million children every year.
It took a team of five investigators a year to screen the two million compounds in GSK’s library – its entire collection of potential drugs and possibly the biggest such library in the world…
Speaking to the Guardian in advance of the announcement in New York, he said: “To my knowledge nobody’s ever put confirmed-hit structures into the public domain. Universities have done stuff like this but on a much smaller scale.
“I think it’s a significant contribution to give scientists around the world 13,500 new opportunities to start research.”
Witty will also announce an $8m fund to pay for scientists to explore these chemicals or others in an “open lab” within its research centre at Tres Cantos, Spain, which is dedicated to work on malaria and other diseases of the developing world.
It’s trying to create a permissiveness around scientific research in an area where we know the marketplace isn’t going to stimulate massive research,” he said.
“Given that there is only a handful of big companies who focus on malaria, this is a chance to get thousands of researchers involved – just like software companies encourage thousands of people to contribute their new ideas for software – and we’ll see what comes of it.”
RTFA. Imagine if this becomes a trend! It will seem like heresy to some for a corporate head to bow to conscience. Andrew Witty seems to mean it.