A Zika drug discovery collaboration

Today a nice collaboration has lead to submission of an opinion article to F1000Research. As an experiment I have posted the manuscript and some of the supplemental data online at FigShare. I hope to add more as time permits. This is definitely a work in progress.

This project has consumed lots of time from all concerned, but we hope the goal will lead to a molecule for Zika and we think we have shown how it can be done. The experimental part has begun. During the past week and a half there have been hundreds of tweets and emails and many scientists have offered help and suggested papers to read etc. A big thank you to all. Much of the writing was done collaboratively on GoogleDocs and that made for a compulsive effort which is very different to the relative immersion in my own thoughts before shipping a version to collaborators.

What this effort also showed was that a ground up effort can work, that social media can be used to connect scientists and help foster these efforts. While several of the scientists are long standing collaborators we have brought in a few new ones. Several scientists while too busy to contribute to the writing made useful suggestions and helped get the ball rolling and that for me was a huge motivation to do this.

Several of the scientific groups involved are in Brazil, they are working on this and we need the world to realize there are certainly other efforts besides those focused on vaccines. From communications with the NIH NIAID program managers it is clear we will not have an in vitro assay available until mid march. Brazil may have one in days. I urge more collaboration and discussion at higher levels so that funding can be prevented from reinventing the wheel.

The response time to get drug discovery off the ground needs improvement. Scientists have the know how and ideas. Now please provide them with the resources to do it and government can deal with the regulatory and incentives to get pharma involved in manufacturing and distribution etc.


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