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The Sharing Economy

Pharma is opening up its libraries to draw in external partners

Arguably the biggest indicator that pharmas have shed the isolationist, know-it-all attitudes that drove their strategies for decades is the growth of compound-sharing initiatives to spur drug discovery. A handful of companies is leading the way in rethinking the risk of disclosing once highly guarded information, positioning the exchange of assets for expertise as the acme of open innovation.

In opening their libraries to the external community companies are all but acknowledging their own limitations, inviting others to find fruit where they themselves failed.

The programs fall under the umbrella of open innovation - a strategy to share knowledge and expertise between institutions that is fast becoming the new vogue in big pharma. At least 12 pharmas have formal programs, which involve a range of activities that bring academic researchers closer in contact with company scientists.

But while barriers have been lowered, the last bastion of company secrecy has been compound structures, which form the core of much IP value.

Now, at least 16 companies are taking the approach that there’s little value in having IP locked up in libraries of compounds sitting on shelves. Instead, they’re betting that they can compete on the downstream activities between finding a hit and making a drug, if the outside community can use its collective knowledge about target biology to generate better hits in the first place.

Best to share

The wave was kicked off by GlaxoSmithKline plc in 2010 with the launch of its Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation to provide the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) access to a library of about 13,500 compounds with potential to treat malaria.

Since then, AstraZeneca

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