News FocusProfile : Stephen Friend

The Visionary

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Science  10 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6069, pp. 651-653
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6069.651

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Untangling the biology of diseases such as cancer and diabetes requires finding patterns in enormous amounts of data, such as the torrent of information now pouring out of big genomics projects. Identifying the needles in such haystacks-culprit proteins or genes causing disease-demands a new kind of science. Three years ago, Stephen Friend co-launched a nonprofit called Sage Bionetworks with the goal of persuading drug companies, academics, clinicians, and patients to share genomic and other biomedical information freely in a huge database that researchers could use to map out the intracellular pathways that contribute to human diseases and build computational models of those conditions that would be better than the animal models now used in preclinical drug development. Friend wants to bring to biomedical science the same open-source ethos embraced by the computer programmers who wrote the Linux operating system and by the people who contribute information to Wikipedia.