Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria

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The term “open source” describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials. I’m sure you’ve heard of open source software such as Perl, WordPress, Linux and Android, and are familiar with open content projects such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary, but what about open source drug discovery?

Specifically, Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) for Malaria is a project launched earlier this year by The Synaptic Leap (TSL), a non-profit organization for open source biomedical research. They focus on providing online tools to allow researchers to coordinate efforts and exchange knowledge. Project members can participate in online discussions, author blogs, and use aggregated RSS feeds to stay current with news and research.

Open Source Drug Discovery for Malaria

Why malaria? Because malaria is one of the most serious public health problems in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

Malaria is a potentially fatal blood disease caused by a human parasite called Plasmodium falciparum. Malaria is transmitted to human and animal hosts by the female anopheles mosquito. Although the disease can be treated in just 48 hours, it can cause fatal complications if the diagnosis and treatment are delayed.

Malaria is a disease of several different strains; five species of Plasmodium can infect and be transmitted by humans. Malaria is currently the fifth cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide, following respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis, and the second cause of death in Africa, following HIV/AIDS.

OSDD Malara is a hub for global efforts in open source drug discovery for malaria. The initial participants of OSDD Malaria are the lab of Dr. Matthew Todd, an organic chemist, at the University of Sydney and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). Other participants in the project include scientists from the University of Melbourne and Griffith University in Australia, and GlaxoSmithKline in Madrid. As an open science project, anyone can come and join, and participation is encouraged at any level.

OSDD Malaria will be holding an open source drug discovery for malaria meeting in Sydney, Australia on February 24th, 2012. The meeting, like the organization’s data, is open to all and will hopefully be live-streamed to a global audience. The aim is to work out how best to do open source drug discovery. More details will be coming soon.

If you want to get involved, you can sign up for The Synaptic Leap updates (by joining), follow Matthew Todd on Google+ (where data is often presented), or follow the OSDD Malaria Twitter feed.

The OSDD Malaria project status is described on the OSDD Malaria wiki.

About the Author

Walter Jessen is Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH Tech. He's also a senior writer at Highlight HEALTH Tech.