In the second article in the series, Sue Montgomery talks to Dr Thomas Crouzier, Assistant Professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, about his report for the European Commission and his perspectives on Open Science
Published in July 2015, Dr Crouzier’s report for the European Commission, Science Ecosystem 2.0: how will change occur?, ‘analyses the potential impact of a transition towards Open Science on the stakeholders of the research ecosystem’, and discusses his findings, including how:
In the report, he notes: ‘As scientific research becomes a more open endeavour, all stakeholders of the research ecosystem must redefine their role and their approach to science. Researchers will have to adapt to new possibilities, to new tools and to new responsibilities. The innovation ecosystem will also change by embracing more openness and being more inclusive. Funders, academic institutions, and policy-makers will need to fund, inform and legislate to accelerate the transition.’
But how will this change actually happen? I asked Dr Crouzier for his perspectives on the unique challenges and benefits of Open Science specific to Europe’s healthcare landscape: ‘I’m not a specialist but I can see how Open Science will affect healthcare in a number of ways,’ he replied. ‘The pharmaceutical industry and biotech companies will profit from more open scientific endeavours carried out by academic researchers (free information). But it isn’t really a two-way thing. Industrial stakeholders are only starting to release the results of clinical trials. But many internal research results are still kept secret for strategic reasons. This is still a challenge for Open Science.
‘For healthcare, Open Science means more informed patients because articles are open, but also because researchers are encouraged to better explain their results to the general public. A better-informed population could mean less risky behaviours. Open Science also means accepting patient inputs though citizen science initiatives,’ he adds.
‘But in general, Open Science’s challenge is the strong inertia faced when shifting academic culture is combined with an incentive system that doesn’t fit with Open Science practices. It is now technically possible to adopt Open Science practices (sharing data, protocols, samples, open access, communicating with the public, etc), but these activities are not rewarded. And with the constant pressure that academic researchers often feel, time-consuming Open Science tasks are not a priority,’ he explains. It seems likely that a major altruistic push will be required to enable sharing at a practical level when resources are already significantly stretched.
When I asked Dr Crouzier for specific examples of how Open Science is catalysing innovation efforts, he cited the following, noting that these are just the tip of the iceberg:
From the website: ‘A platform created for patients, and those who care about them, to share and access useful solutions to cope with their diseases.’
Dr Crouzier says that this company has developed ‘a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) that is totally open source. They do sell it, but for a fraction of what a QCM instrument would otherwise cost. The case can be 3D printed and adapted to any specific requirement. This sort of initiative gives researchers so much flexibility that they will eventually find new interesting ways to use it. The instruments are affordable enough to be introduced into the classroom, thus also impacting on education.’
Dr Crouzier says the next three examples are signs that Big Pharma is opening up to academic researchers.
From the website: ‘The AstraZeneca Open Innovation platform has been created to help us identify and establish mutually beneficial collaborations that will lead to the discovery and development of new medicines. It provides a robust but simple process for us to link our expertise, experience, resources, and technology with those of external experts, and to explore prospective partnerships that accelerate the advancement of medical science and breakthrough therapies for patients.’
In 2011, a landmark agreement between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and AstraZeneca gave UK academic researchers unprecedented access to 22 of the company’s compounds. These compounds hadn’t made it through early testing, typically because they didn’t prove effective against the original target. However, they may still prove useful against other diseases that have shared biological pathways. Two examples include the lung disease drug AZD1236, which researchers are hoping to repurpose to treat muscular dystrophies, and zibotentan, originally developed to treat prostate cancer but now being studied to hopefully delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here is a recently published update on the collaboration:
From the website: ‘GSK follows the Want – Find – Get – Manage model of Open Innovation. Our Wants represent technologies or innovation that will significantly contribute to the growth of our global brands, and are the result of extensive research by our commercial and R&D teams. We actively Find these wants by building networks with innovators like you. We then work with you throughout the product development process to Get technologies and effectively Manage relationships with you – our external innovators. The result is market-leading products that meet consumers’ needs.’
Although this video is specific to innovators in Australia and New Zealand, GSK’s invitation to innovators to engage in open innovation is worldwide in scope:
From the website: ‘Our innovation centres in Boston, California, London and Shanghai are Johnson & Johnson innovation regional hubs, created to access the best science and technology in the region, and to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and scientists developing important medical device and diagnostic technologies, consumer healthcare products, and pharmaceuticals. Through our centres, the exchange of and support for new ideas occurs, which is critical to advancing important products. We have a fully integrated team of scientific and business experts, and flexible deal-making capabilities to meet the needs of any company.’
In this introductory video about the SETsquared Partnership, Patrick Verheyen, Head of Innovation at Johnson & Johnson, London describes the organisation’s open innovation approach:
Open Science has a vast potential to create new opportunities to spur innovation in Europe – and we’ve only just begun. As Dr Crouzier notes in his report: ‘Supporting the transition towards Open Science is indeed essential since several barriers other than technological remain intact. In particular, the uncertain effects of such large-scale overhaul of the research and innovation ecosystems discourage key stakeholders, such as researchers and policy- makers, from investing in Open Science. A clear vision of the impact Open Science will have on all stakeholders and of the path to the successful transition is key…’
Recommendations on how we should use AI, genomics and medtech in the NHS – click here for 98 pages to guide us to the future. ‘The greatest challenge is the culture shift in learning and innovation, with a willingness to embrace technology for system-wide improvement. An ambitious drive “towards the NHS becoming the world’s largest learning organisation”’.
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