Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has set an example to other drug companies by making its database of potential malaria drugs public, says a Nature editorial.
The move last month (January), provides access to data on 13,500 malaria drug candidates and marks an unprecedented open attitude to data sharing from big pharma (see Glaxo to share malaria drug data).
The editorial applauds GSK's chief executive, Andrew Witty, for showing leadership in this attempt to re-engage with the neglected diseases that primarily affect developing countries. It suggests that more drug companies should embrace a similar attitude towards these diseases, as they present a "low risk area" for experimenting with open data.
Other institutions also have a role to play, argues the editorial.
Academic organisations must provide the infrastructure for archiving open data, and universities should support research that can develop drug leads such as those presented by GSK.
And both should be more open. The editorial accuses academics and their institutions of being among the "worst offenders" in terms of "hogging intellectual property", and concludes by suggesting they follow GSK's lead and allow royalty-free use of technologies for good causes.