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PharmaVille

Tired of tending virtual crops and feeding fish with your Facebook friends? How about trying your hand at synthesizing small-molecule compounds and organizing clinical trials?

Boehringer Ingelheim is preparing to launch a beta version of Syrum, "a social game on Facebook which sees you take control of your very own pharmaceutical company."

The game lets players set up their own labs to discover new drugs and bring them to market.

John Pugh, director of digital for Boehringer Ingelheim, tells PSFK.com that the game is made up of different chapters in which "you have to solve a particular problem, which could be a disease or a pandemic that is sweeping the world. The player's goal is to discover cures, create a stable drug, and then create a clinical trial so that you can launch the drug and cure the disease." He says that Syrum has been in development for around two years.

Pugh is scheduled to officially launch the game at PSFK's upcoming conference in London on Sept. 13.

Syrum isn't likely to solve pharma's oft-discussed innovation problem, however. Pugh says it's simply a "fun game."

"It wasn't built with a view to being an educational platform or anything like that," he says. "It's very much a game which is meant to be engaging and entertaining to play. In the same way that Farmville doesn't just appeal to people who like farms, Syrum isn't just for people who like the pharmaceutical industry."

FiercePharma notes that the approach is unique, but wonders, "will gamification of drug development actually benefit Boehringer's business? Image? Relations with patients? Pharma's social media advocates (and skeptics) will be watching."

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