Drug Scientists Slow to Adopt Open Source

A surge in open-source technology has given many businesses more options for powerful, low-cost software. But the pharmaceutical industry remains well behind the curve.

A surge in open-source technology offers many businesses a potent combination of power and low cost, but the pharmaceutical industry remains well behind the curve.

That was the message at a session on data visualization and integration at a semiannual meeting of the nations chemists in Washington last week.

No one thinks open source can fill everyones software needs, but a "forceful" open-source community could create modules that bridge gaps in existing software designed for the pharmaceutical industry and help it become more efficient, said presenters. Yet so far, few are stepping up to the plate.

Interest in visualization software has surged in the pharmaceutical industry in the past couple years, but interest in open source has not, said Carol Rozwell, vice president of life sciences at consultancy Gartner Inc., who did not attend the session. However, she said, interest might pick up as the pharmaceutical industry sees IT more firmly integrated into drug discovery and development.

In a recent survey, Rozwells group looked at all sorts of software used by biopharmaceutical companies to find out if it was developed in-house or purchased from a software vendor.

Overall, there was an increasing tendency to use off-the-shelf products. "The one holdout area," she said, "was discovery. Many clients express concern that the commercial products dont quite fit the bill, hence the tendency to believe that the only option is to develop their own software."

Software can come from pharmaceutical companies internal efforts, commercial software vendors, academics and open-source communities.

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