Collaborative Drug Discovery, Revisited

“Failure is free” today, claims Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody. A recent e-mail I received demonstrated how this reality is being put to use in the pharmaceutical industry.  Collaborative Drug Discovery (CDD), about which I’ve written before, offers cash to pharmaceutical researchers willing to share “compounds they have synthesized but are no longer actively pursuing.”  Incidentally, of course, the pharmaceutical industry is having trouble innovating at the same rate as it had been accustomed to.

Here’s most of the text of the e-mail:

Collaborative Drug Discovery (CDD) would like to share with our users an opportunity to take advantage of the compounds they have synthesized but are no longer actively pursuing.

By uploading the structures of these compounds at InnoCentive’s Novel Molecule Pavilion your compounds will be considered for purchase by their Seekers for screening in their Seekers’ assays.

Alternatively, submit your compounds to Innocentive using your CDD Vault. Sign up here and we will facilitate passing the data on to InnoCentive.

Initial awards range from $100-1,000 per compound, while coming up as a hit in a Seeker’s assay could be far more valuable.  Please forward any questions to Christian Stevenson (

Thanks, and best of luck in the lab! – Sylvia

Sylvia Ernst, Ph.D.

Sr. Director, Community Growth


Historian Elin Whitney-Smith on the Information Revolution

Here’s an excellent interview with historian Elin Whitney-Smith about the nature of the Information Revolution (thanks to my brother, Jeremy, for this reference).

A key quote:

Digital technology makes it possible for those who have a vested interest in the long-term health of the organization to have more information. In new, flatter organizations, the rank and file will know everything about the organization, including its financial secrets. They will know everybody’s salary. They will be able to say, “Well, I think you’re making too much for the amount of value you’re producing. You can’t siphon off that money, because we need to reinvest it.” Companies that become flatter, that look more like networks and less like hierarchies, and that reform their finances, will be able to survive. Otherwise, companies that use these new ways of organizing will out-compete the old.

China and Gmail

China and Google are currently arguing over who is responsible for the current slowness of Gmail in China.  Naturally, I don’t have any specific information about who is to blame but can report the following technical observations, pursuant to my recent return from China:

  • Unsurprisingly, expats with whom I spoke universally blame the Chinese government for the problems.
  • The problems seem to be manifesting themselves all over the country.
  • I couldn’t open my Google Calendar on several occasions and couldn’t open Google Docs at all during my 8-day trip
  • One investor indicated that much of his fund’s information infrastructure is located on Google and that his firm was accordingly affected negatively.

It was interesting to note that at least one experienced expas seemed to think that the central government would eventually change its policy.  He, a savvy China-based consultant who has lived there for two decades, believed that the Chinese government’s interest in creating a friendly business environment would overwhelm other considerations with regard to the speed of Gmail.

Businesses and the Evolving Social Contract

I heard business author and technology consultant Geoffrey Moore speak today at an SAP conference in New York.  He talked about “the consumerization of IT.”  The following quote (paraphrased) struck me, in particular:

“There’s a new social contract in communication and businesses are violating it every day by the way they share information.”

What he’s talking about is making data analysis more interactive and customizable, as well as allowing social exchange across business data networks (in Moore’s words, “moving from ‘Systems of Record’ to ‘Systems of Engagement.'”).

Databases in the Cloud and Collaborative IT

A cloud computing innovator is planning to affect not only the enterprise products your company buys, but also way your IT culture works. recently announced “a database-as-a-service product,, at its annual conference.

Two highlights:
1) Collaborative tools are built into “the deepest layer of [the product’s] platform

2) The company’s database product “comes with toolkits for connecting apps that run natively on mobile platforms.” Developers will be able to build apps that include “profiles, status updates, news feeds and groups.” (Quotes in item #2 come from the company’s website.)

Michael Krigsman of IT Project Failures writes that “ is now a legitimate enterprise player possessing a clear collaboration-centric vision.”

Whether this particular product/company succeeds or not, the combination of cloud-generated ease of maintenance and socially-based database development points to the software experience that companies of the future are likely to desire.

R&D Collaboration in Pharma

A cool site (by Collaborative Drug Discovery, or CDD) that allows researchers to collaborate in drug discovery.

There are three levels of information sharing available:

  • “Vault”:  provides for private storage of a group’s information
  • “Collaborate”: provides for selective sharing of information with selected partners
  • “Public”: self-explanatory

I recently spoke with a top theorist in the pharma industry.  He suggested that the “black-white continuum between sharing all data and sharing no data” is archaic and that a new model is needed for a world in which innovation has decelerated and in which multiple companies are working on similar therapies.  CDD may provide part of the answer to this challenge.