Scientists tout 'open source' drug discovery

Applying open source methodology to disease research could speed up the process of drug discovery, according to researchers at the University of Sydney.

Senior lecturer at the university's School of Chemistry, Dr Matthew Todd, told Computerworld Australia that the current method of drug discovery is extremely competitive and mostly carried out behind closed doors to protect certain ideas and any commercial benefits down the track.

University of Sydney researchers are openly sharing their lab notes, primarily through a blog -- The Synaptic Leap -- as well as Twitter and Google+ and currently have around 15 contributors to a malaria project that is in pilot stages.

"Drug discovery is a complex process involving many different stages and the open source method has huge potential for improving the early phases before clinical trials have commenced," Todd said.

"It works to a certain model which involves research done behind closed doors where nothing is shared outside of an organisation, like a company or university," Todd said.

"Eventually, way down the line, the work is published and if there is something interesting in there, it's usually patented before it's published in order to recover costs otherwise others can just take your work and use it for themselves."