이제 암 치료를 위한 연구도 Open-Source 체계로 시도를 하네요.
The Man on a Quest to Open-Source Cancer Research
Isaac Yonemoto is a chemist, but he’s been writing software code since he was a kid. He calls himself a “semi-recreational” programmer, and now, he’s running an experiment that combines this sideline with his day job. In short, he’s using open source software techniques to kickstart the world of cancer research.
Patent-free and crowd-funded by the bitcoin digital currency, Yonemoto’s project seeks to resurrect work on a promising anti-cancer compound called 9-deoxysibiromycin, or 9-DS. Early tests indicated it could provide a treatment for melanoma, kidney cancer, and breast cancer, but then, for various reasons, research on the compound was abandoned. So Yonemoto stepped in and restarted the project online, as if it was an open source software project, raising money for additional research through an online fundraising campaign.
Although the stakes are different, Yonemoto compares his gambit to previous efforts to resurrect abandoned video games such as the classic versions ofCommand and Conquer—one of his favorites. “Here we have this abandonware compound,” he says, “and open-sourcing is a way of resurrecting abandonware.”
9-DS was developed by Barbara Gerratana, a professor with the University of Maryland, College Park. Back in the 1970s, Russian scientists thought that its parent compound might be useful as a cancer treatment, but they found that it stressed the heart and shelved their work. Decades later, Gerratana discovered that by loping off an oxygen molecule, she could not only avoid the coronary side-effects but also create a more effective drug.
The rub is that Gerratana took a job with the National Institute of Health and was unable to pursue the work. And because she had already published her research without patenting it, drug companies were unlikely to sponsor the work. The good news is that because it was never patented, it’s in the public domain. Anyone can work on it, kinda like open source software. Yonemoto, who had worked on the project under a grant, jumped in.
Last week, he launched a fund-raising campaign for the research, and so far, he has taken in $12,000 of the $50,000 he’ll need to test the compound on mice. About $2,000 of that comes from bitcoin donations. He calls the campaign Project Marilyn, and it’s just one fundraising up and running on his website Indysci.org, which you can think of as a kickstarter platform for open scientific research that will publish its data openly. “We’re going to push the data to a decentralized server—possibly GitHub,” he says, referring to the popular service for hosting open source software projects.
His fundraising technique that’s very much at odds with the way that most drugs are researched these days, but in a sense, it’s also a return to the roots of mid-century drug research, when the polio vaccine, for instance, was developed and distributed patent-free. “I’ve never been a big fan of patents and this seemed like good opportunity,” says Yonemoto, who unlike most chemists, constantly nods to things like bitcoin and free software pioneer Richard Stallman in the course of conversation.
What we’re seeing here is the result of a decade long cross pollination between the biology and computer science, kicked off by the computerized sequencing of the human genome. The computer science world’s open source ethos is starting to rub off, Yonemoto says. “Biology is becoming more like a computer science discipline,” he says.
The question is whether this will actually work. Yonemoto may be able to continue the research. But turning this into a mass produced drug would take some serious money—more than you can likely raise online. The hope is that his small project can attract more researchers—and larger investors—to the problem. “Biological processes are primarily stochastic, and computer processes are supposed to be deterministic,” he says. “But I think there is going to be a convergence to some degree.”