Malaria has long been a global epidemic, with sub-Saharan Africans under the age of 5 bearing the brunt of almost all the estimated 3 million fatalities occurring every year. Nothing But Nets and similar programs have made great strides toward preventing the spread of this disease in African nations, but a cure has not yet been found.
Some may say it’s a problem too big to solve – but GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) thinks otherwise. This week, the global pharmaceutical giant announced it will freely distribute its malaria research to any scientist interested in joining the challenge – marking the first time that a pharmaceutical company has made so much of its data public. What’s more, GSK will provide “open lab” placements for 60 scientists at one of its research labs and is collaborating with Medicines for Malaria Venture, a foundation focused on anti-malarial drug development. In an industry that is often highly confidential and competitive, GSK intends to use open-source collaboration to solve this epidemic.
This collaborative approach to the research process could speed solutions. As Dr. Timothy Wells of the Medicines for Malaria Venture notes, “By sharing the data, the research community…could set a new trend to revolutionize the urgent search for new medicines to tackle malaria.”
GSK is making a huge statement for the pharmaceutical industry, and for all of the corporate world, by recognizing some problems are too big and too important to solve alone. By engaging the right stakeholders, sharing knowledge and taking a collaborative approach to critical social issues, GSK could be changing the way solutions are found for both business and society.