Several weeks ago, in his weekly research roundup, John Scott sent me a link to an article in the Guardian about two Swedish researchers, Professor Magnus Essand and Dr Justyna Leja, who have developed a (safe) virus that can successfully target, and munch out of existence, neuroendocrine cancers – the type of cancer that killed Steve Jobs. This is sufficiently revolutionary in itself, but what is almost more revolutionary is the way that the researchers are hoping to ‘bring it to market’.
Because the virus is not patentable, no Biotech company will fund human trials. And thanks to the financial crunch no government or charity is prepared to stump up the cash (around £1 million) needed to stage them. So Prof. Essand and Dr Leja have decided to try and raise the money themselves – through the technique of ‘crowdsourcing’ on the internet (see their iCancer site here) and by offering to sell the name of the therapy to finance its development. If a large donor comes along and provides the cash the therapy would then be called the ‘donor’s name’ therapy (in exactly the same way as a hospital wing or a football championship is called by the name of whoever pays for it) instead of by its scientific or manufacturer’s name. (And before you ask – yes they have approached Apple – who have not ,as yet, even replied to their emails asking for assistance.)
Is this the way to go for future drug and therapy research? I can think of a lot worse – namely our current big business model where development depends almost entirely on the prospect of future profit not on the benefit that the drug or therapy might deliver.
Do read the article – it is fascinating.