Open Source Biology Deserves a Shot
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the benefits of openness, Friend says. And patient advocacy groups, including the Genetic Alliance and the CHDI Foundation, have championed the cause.
One of Friend’s next steps, once there’s enough data in the Sage Commons, is creating a free online scientific journal with the ability to visually display network models of disease that connect the dots between genes, proteins, and clinical manifestations of disease in ways that today’s journals aren’t equipped to handle.
At this point, Friend said, there are “kernels” of useful data in the Sage Commons. “Have we got it all built? No,” he says.
That’s where you come in. The only way a movement like this can work, Friend says, is if a wide array of “communities of interest”—drugmakers, academic scientists, doctors, regulators, insurers, patients—grab this platform and run with it on their own.
“We’ll make it or not depending on whether our community of interest goes viral,” Friend says. “You look at Twitter, and it has 42 employees [in its early days---it's now 200. --Eds.]. It’s not about what they are doing. It’s about creating a community of interest who will build this.”
If this thing goes viral throughout biomedicine, it will change the way we think about healthcare. If it doesn’t go viral, it will probably fade into irrelevance.
One key step forward for Sage is coming up this Friday and Saturday at its second annual Sage Commons Congress. It will bring together more than 200 people from various fields to work together on this project at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus. I’ll be there listening, interviewing, reporting, writing, and Tweeting under the conference hashtag, #sagecon. For those who want to participate but can’t be there in person, Sage is providing a webcast. I’ll be watching closely to see how the 200 people inside that room work together. But I’m even more curious to see if biologists outside that room will heed Friend’s call.
Anyone who cares about the future of medicine ought to.