Pink Army Cooperative Uses Open Source Principles to Treat Breast Cancer
One of the greatest things about the open source philosophy is that its principles can be applied to projects that help mankind. Content management systems, media apps, and gaming software all have their place in the FOSS ecosystem, but when projects like the Pink Army Cooperative come along, it reminds people of just how powerful the open source doctrine really is.
Founded in March of this year, Canadian-based Pink Army Cooperative is using open source synthetic biology to create better drugs to fight breast cancer. The organization is comprised of members who pay $21 CDN to join the cooperative and, in turn, receive a small economic stake in the co-op.
According to information provided by Pink Army [PDF], "The core technology is synthetic biology, a platform for high-speed genetic engineering. An open source therapeutic design engine is coupled with automated DNA synthesis and personal-scale manufacturing processes to make person-specific bio-medicines.cooperative. Each synthetic therapeutic will be rigorously tested, openly reviewed, submitted to the FDA for approval, and used only in the person for which was designed, resulting in a single person (n=1) clinical trial. Personalized treatments are expected to be specific, safe, and available for use clinically much faster than those made with traditional development techniques -- a revolution in personalized medicine."
Now, there are many things to like about this idea, not the least of which is the ability to create custom-made drugs tailored to a patients exact illness. Of course, as the project gains recognition, there will no doubt be concern about the safety and efficacy of drugs made this way.
The team behind the Pink Army Cooperative acknowledges that when the need for large-scale manufacturing processes and extensive clinical trials are eliminated, the time to develop effective drugs is reduced dramatically. Indeed, patients participating in the cooperative essentially become a clinical trial unto themselves.
Many cancer patients will tell you, however, that when the diagnosis is grim, they'll happily submit to an unproven medical treatment that might work rather than wait for an approved treatment to wind its way through red tape and bureaucracy. What do you think? Would you join an open source personal drug development program if there was a chance it could save your life? Let me know in the comments.