Among the stories of global turmoil jockeying for our attention in today’s news, the Ebola crisis ravaging West Africa stands out as particularly tragic and troubling. In the midst of unfathomable suffering and poignant acts of compassion and heroism, we wonder why has so little progress been made in finding a vaccine or cure in the almost 40 years since the virus was first discovered. While it is tempting to point a finger at “Big Pharma”, the economic realities of the pharmaceutical sector ensure that rare diseases, especially those found primarily in the developing world, will not receive the needed research dollars. In the absence of meaningful governmental (such as the Ebola drug research at the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg) or philanthropic (such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s work on neglected infectious diseases) involvement, the sad conclusion is that research into vaccines or cures for these rare diseases will continue to be neglected.
As I listened to CBC radio this Saturday morning, I was encouraged to hear Day 6’s host Brent Bambury interview Matt Todd, a University of Sydney chemist, in the segment: Can open-source pharma cure Ebola and other neglected killers? Professor Todd, who founded and currently leads the Open Source Malaria project, explains the great promise of open source pharma approaches in collaboratively finding vaccines and cures to neglected diseases such as Ebola. I encourage you to listen to the interview and join me in hoping for and working towards a better world.