Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, February 26, 2007

More on the OA diabetes data from Novartis

Stephen Pincock, Pharma goes open access, The Scientist, February 26, 2007.  Excerpt:

Swiss drug maker Novartis this month made the results of a genomic analysis of type 2 diabetes freely available on the Internet. Such open sharing of data might run counter to the general view of the pharmaceutical industry, but many academics see it as part of a growing awareness among firms that there are benefits to be had from making at least some information publicly available.

"Data sharing is good, and it's good to see pharma catching up with academia in this respect," Mark McCarthy from the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, who is studying diabetes genomics, told The Scientist.

Peter Suber from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition pointed out in an Email that the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) recently urged the European Commission to mandate open access for EU-funded research, and half of EURAB members are in industry. "As EURAB shows, industry is starting to join with academics to deliver this message."

The new diabetes data came out of a collaboration between Novartis, the University of Lund in Sweden, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard....The results are available on the Broad Web site.

Making the data freely available -- the underlying principle of open access -- had been an important condition of the collaboration, Leif Groop, one of the study's principal investigators from Lund, told The Scientist. "Collaboration between two academic institutions and a drug company could be problematic if we would allow patenting of results," he said via Email....

Susan Gasser from the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland, which is part of the Novartis Research Foundation, told The Scientist ..., "I think [Novartis] figures that if an independent investigator has results that will help cure diabetes, [the investigator] might eventually come back to Novartis to collaborate -- since academic labs cannot do drug development," she said. "Thus sharing basic genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic information, while unusual, makes good sense -- both business sense and research sense." ...

"Making datasets available openly is a reflection of the proverbial truth that four eyes see more than two," said [Tom Misteli, Senior Investigator in the Cell Biology of Genomes Group at the National Cancer Institute] in an Email. "Making datasets openly available allows everyone to try their favorite tool on a dataset," and more easily compare different datasets. Groop agreed. "Ten years ago everyone was expecting to get the 'big fish' and no one cooperated," he said. "We have matured, drug companies have matured," he said, causing more groups to open up their data....

The SNP consortium, which involves several drug firms and biotechs, is another example of pharmaceuticals making data public, McCarthy noted.

In another similar move, Pfizer and Affymetrix have signed up to a public-private partnership with the NIH called the Genetic Association Information Network (GAIN), which set out to determine the genetic contributions to five common diseases. All data from that collaboration, announced last year, will also be in the public domain.

Stevan Harnad from the University of Southampton, UK, said the open access movement would be reaching out directly to the R&D industry to consolidate support for open access. "The R&D industry is beginning to recognize the great benefits of [open access]," he said in an Email. "They are a perfectly natural extension of the benefits, to them, of publishing their findings in the first place."