Health Commons

Bringing healthcare solutions R&D into the 21st century: “the drug discovery process is broken,” how do we fix it? Science Commons suggests the creation of a Health Commons. The problem statement is clear:

We are no longer asking whether a gene or a molecule is critical to a particular biological process; rather, we are discovering whole networks of molecular and cellular interactions that contribute to disease. And soon, we will have such information about individuals, rather than the population as a whole. Biomedical knowledge is exploding, and yet the system to capture that knowledge and translate it into saving human lives still relies on an antiquated and risky strategy of focusing the vast resources of a few pharmaceutical companies on just a handful of disease targets.

The solution is a democratization of relevant knowledge “markets.”

Imagine a virtual marketplace or ecosystem where participants share data, knowledge, materials and services to accelerate research. The components might include databases on the results of chemical assays, toxicity screens, and clinical trials; libraries of drugs and chemical compounds; repositories of biological materials (tissue samples, cell lines, molecules), computational models predicting drug efficacies or side effects, and contract services for high-throughput genomics and proteomics, combinatorial drug screening, animal testing, biostatistics, and more. The resources offered through the Commons might not necessarily be free, though many could be. However, all would be available under standard pre-negotiated terms and conditions and with standardized data formats that eliminate the debilitating delays, legal wrangling and technical incompatibilities that frustrate scientific collaboration today.

The Health Commons, driven by Science Commons, is a coalition currently including CommerceNet, Public Library of Science, and CollabRx.

Here’s a video intro:


Posted in: trends & principles





One Response to “Health Commons”

  1. Susannah Fox says:

    Thanks, Jon, for sparking a few connections for me.

    First, I just finished reading a law review article that quotes the philosopher John Dewey: “It is a familiar and significant saying that a problem well put is half-solved… The way in which the problem is conceived decides what specific suggestions are entertained and which are dismissed; what data are selected and which rejected; it is the criterion for relevancy and irrelevancy of hypotheses and conceptual structures.” (Google Books has the full text of Dewey’s quote.) I am not qualified to say whether the above problem statement is the right one, but I applaud the attempt!

    Second, the video brings up the “e-commerce revolution” as a beacon for a new scientific revolution. That reminded me of the “Harnessing Openness to Transform American Health Care” report I wrote about in February.

    Finally, it reminded me to post a link to my colleague John Horrigan’s report, “The Internet and Consumer Choice” which finds that online Americans are likely to use the internet to narrow down options (in real estate, cell phone, or music purchases) but go off-line when it is time to do the deal. So while the Pew Internet Project’s data consistently shows that the network has changed our lives, it hasn’t changed everything — at least not these 3 corners of the much-vaunted market for goods & services.

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