New research model for cheap drugs for infectious diseases

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New Delhi, Sep 15 (UNI) The Government today launched a unique Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) programme to develop cheap drugs for the poor to treat infectious diseases-- such as tuberculosis which claims 370,000 lives annually.

An initiative of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), OSDD will facilitate collaborative research in infectious diseases through a web portal, www.osdd.net.

''It is the beginning of a new era of drug discovery without the patent system,'' Science and technology Minister Kapil Sibal said after launching the portal.

''The idea of the portal came only because the western countries are not investing in drugs used for treating infectious diseases afflicting the poor.... The programme is thus dedicated to the poor,'' Mr Sibal said and added that Rs 150 crore had been earmarked for the project in the XI Plan.

The portal will provide a platform for collaborative research, data on the pathogens, a discussion forum for members to share ideas, and projects for students to participate in drug discovery.

''Anybody can enter the portal and take ideas.... That is purpose of this open source model,'' CSIR Director General Samir Brahmachari said and added that the programme had drawn inspiration from the success of open movements in the human genome sequencing project.

Once research leads to the discovery of a molecule, clinical trials will be held for the chemical entity to develop drug for the infectious disease.

''Twenty per cent of the cost of the trials will be borne by the researchers and the remaining 80 per cent by the CSIR-led consortium which includes Global Research Alliance consisting of worldwide research organisations such as Gates Foundation,'' Mr Sibal said.

In the first phase, research for drugs against tuberculosis will be undertaken with the first laboratory to be set up in Hyderabad and the second in Saurashtra. Then research in kala-azar will follow, Mr Brahmachari said.

UNI YJ RL ND1750

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