Sage Bionetworks Strikes Deal With Pfizer to Find Cancer Drug Targets
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his share of skepticism. One fallacy he’s heard is that Sage is a stealthy “Merck project” to benefit Friend’s former employer. He’s hopeful that cutting the deal with Pfizer will help lay that notion to rest.
“A lot of people have wondered whether any pharmaceutical company would be interested in Sage Bionetworks, or whether it was just a few academics and Merck,” Friend says. “To our minds, this validates us.”
Still, I can imagine this deal opening up Sage to some criticism for backing away a bit from its pure open-source collaborative mission. The data that Sage and Pfizer generate from their partnership will get dumped into Sage’s public data repository, but not until one year after a given project concludes, Friend says. That sounds like it would give Pfizer scientists a pretty sizable head start over other biologists—exactly what you’d expect from a profit-driven organization that wants to keep a lot of its research proprietary.
Our conversation was a bit rushed, so I didn’t have as much time as I’d normally like to question Friend on the details of this arrangement and how it balances Pfizer’s interests with those of the biological research world, and Sage’s need for support. But Friend insisted that Pfizer was comfortable with the way Sage has structured the deal, knowing that the computing models and data will be released into the public domain.
“People are excited to work with us knowing that it’s going in the public domain and that other eyes will be able to help build on it,” Friend says.