“When software development was still new, people thought patents would be the only way to protect good ideas,” Yonemoto said. “But what we’re finding out, especially on the Android platform, is that open-source encourages communication and can lead to a superior, cost-effective product.”
The drug, known as 9DS, was found to be most effective against kidney cancer, melanoma, and triple negative breast cancer in an NCI-60 study, which pits potential cancer drugs against 60 different kinds of cancer cells.
The American Cancer Society notes that while melanoma constitutes just 2 percent of skin cancer cases, it causes a majority of skin cancer deaths. Kidney cancer is among the most common cancers for men and women, while triple negative breast cancer is more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.
The goal of the crowdfunding campaign is to finance an initial xenograft study— that is, studying the drug in mice.
“Even if the xenograft study fails, we’ll have gained valuable information that might otherwise be kept secret if it were patented,” Yonemoto said. “In that case, researchers will know not to pursue the drug further.”
Provided that the xenograft study goes well, 9DS will move into further preclinical trials, possibly through a collaboration with a for-profit company. Research and development at the later stages costs between $1 million and $10 million and will likely not be crowdfunded.
Due the drug’s patent status, the threat of competition is likely to keep the price of 9DS low, regardless of a partnership with a for-profit company. Currently, when a drug loses its patent status, the price can come down ten-fold, according to Yonemoto.
After Project Marilyn, IndySci will become a platform for crowdfunding ventures from both Yonemoto and other researchers.
One avenue that’s currently unexplored in traditional research and development is personalized medicine, which Yonemoto describes as the Holy Grail of pharmaceuticals. Companies are largely unable to patent personalized medicine, and thus the area has not been developed.
Project Marilyn is currently accepting donations in dollars and Bitcoins. Those interested in donating can earmark their funds to be used specifically for non-animal research as well.