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Crowd-Sourcing Drug Discovery

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Science  24 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6071, pp. 909
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6071.909

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Each year, India tallies 1.7 million cases of tuberculosis (TB) and some 400,000 people succumb to the disease, making it the leading cause of death for those in the prime of life, from 15 to 45 years old. Most victims are poor, and pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to develop new drugs against the bug that causes TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. But the Indian government has a big incentive to reduce the disease burden. In 2008, the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) network was launched. Modeled after the open-source software community, OSDD's army of volunteers is building a kind of Wikipedia on TB. Some 5500 participants in 130 countries respond to "work packages" posted by OSDD: questions on everything from the biology of M. tuberculosis to leads on drugs; answers are tagged and credited.