A new incentive to create an "Open Source" atmosphere in cancer research! Excerpt from Wall Street Journal article below, with a few links :-)
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After Hope Goldstein was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2001, her family wanted to help. Her husband and two sons started researching the disease and quickly realized that even with surgery and chemotherapy, the prognosis wasn't good.
So they went in search of the one thing they believed still might help Mrs. Goldstein: new ideas.
They started calling cancer researchers, doctors at leading academic centers, specialists in ovarian cancer. In their conversations, they ran into an unexpected obstacle. Many people did have new ideas. But frequently, they weren't willing to share them.
Friends who worked in medical research tried to explain: Companies often will not pursue an idea for commercialization unless it is patented, requiring secrecy in the early stages. In addition, the grant process is competitive, and no one wants to get scooped. Perhaps most notably, professional advancement depends on publishing ideas in scientific journals.
In 2004, Mrs. Goldstein died. But her son Robert Goldstein, 41, continued to think about the issue. It seemed to him that what was holding back cancer research wasn't only a lack of money but a culture that discouraged the sharing of promising leads.
"If you have a great idea but someone else publishes it first, you get no credit, professionally or financially," says Gary Curhan of Harvard Medical School, one of the researchers who spoke with Robert Goldstein about the issue of sharing. "Ideas," says Dr. Curhan, "are our currency."
A managing partner at the hedge fund Gotham Capital in New York, Mr. Goldstein recognized similarities with his own profession. Money managers also were reluctant to share investment ideas. A few years earlier, Mr. Goldstein's business partner and friend, Joel Greenblatt, the 49-year-old founder of Gotham Capital, had created an online, selective group called the Value Investors Club, to spur idea sharing. Members shared investing strategies and commented on each other's research. A cash prize was awarded for the best idea of the week.
The two men thought that perhaps a similar model would work in cancer research. So this year they agreed to put up $1 million of their own money every year to fund the Gotham Prize for Cancer Research. Modeled on the Value Investors Club, the annual prize will go to the person who posts the best new cancer-research idea, judged by a board of respected scientists, at the prize's Web site by the end of December.
The winner of the Gotham Prize doesn't have to present a shred of evidence that the premise will work. To attract ideas from people outside the field of cancer research, there is no requirement that the winner be capable of seeing the idea through.
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Full article in first link.