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Secrets Don't Make Friends — or New Drugs — in Pharma

Matthew Herper at Forbes' The Science Business blog examines ways in which major drug companies are beginning to "open up" their operations in order to promote scientific progress. "Secrecy leads companies to race down the same blind alleys, to miss opportunities and to understand biology less than they otherwise might," Herper writes, introducing new initiatives by former executives at companies from Merck to Genentech, which aim to "open up many stages of drug development, from basic science to human research, in the hopes of ending this drought" of new drugs. GlaxoSmithKline has generated attention for its deposition of 13,500 anti-malaria compounds in the European Bioinformatics Institute's ChEMBL chemical database for free use. "At Sage Bionetworks in Seattle, former Merck vice-president Stephen Friend is trying to pool data from drug companies and academics to create predictive models of the body's chemistry," Herper reports. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, and former Genentech executive, told Herper that "all companies today are concerned with the sustainability with the way we've done research and development over the years. … The question is can you give up the secret nature that is your competitive advantage because you gain so much participating in a process like this?"

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.