Stephen Friend

Access to data is often a big issue in science. On the one hand most scientists believe in sharing data and learning and building upon the results from others. Science is just too big to do alone. On the other hand the scientists know that they are being judged individually by the results that they publish about. And of course companies make money on the knowledge and patents they exclusively have. In many ways this is a prisoners dilemma that harms the society at large.

Stephen Friend, President of Sage Bionetworks, is working on solving this dilemma. Stephen had an extensive career at world class organizations like Merck & Co as leader of oncology research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Before that he worked at Harvard Medical School and at Massachusetts General Hospital. He received his B.A. in philosophy, his Ph.D. in biochemistry and his M.D. from Indiana University. Due to his experience in academic research, operational hospital and in research at large pharma he has ideally suited to attack this problem of insufficient sharing.

With Sage Bionetworks, that he founded, he is working to develop an environment where open innovation in the treatment of diseases is enabled. For example by sharing data on DNA research in relation to all kind of diseases. This is no easy task due to the above mentioned prisoners dilemma. For this they have stated 6 core principles:

1. The purpose of the Commons is to expedite the pathway to knowledge, treatment, and prevention of disease.

2. We will promote collaborative discovery through the creation and support of a broadly accessible digital Commons consisting of curated data and methodological tools in which analytical results are shared in a transparent, open fashion.

3. The Commons will respect the rights and interests of all contributors including individuals from whom data are derived, researchers who collect and analyze data, and scientists and physicians who develop and implement healthcare advances. Those not respecting these rights will be excluded from the Commons.

4. Contributions to the Commons shall be appropriately acknowledged and attributed.

5. The Commons will promote data and tool sharing and distribution using standards that enable efficient reuse, compilation and comparison.

6. The Commons will hold no intellectual property rights in, and will not permit encumbrances on, data and other elements within the Commons. This will not, however, preclude individuals from protecting new goods and services developed using data and other elements from the Commons.

This approach brings together two promising directions to the research in medicine: eScience where truth is found by the analysis of large quantities of data and open innovation where data is shared as much as possible. A great task!

Watch Stephen’s TEDxTalk

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