Established by the President of the Royal Society of Canada in April 2020, the RSC Task Force on COVID-19 was mandated to provide evidence-informed perspectives on major societal challenges in response to and recovery from COVID-19.
The Task Force established a series of Working Groups to rapidly develop Policy Briefings, with the objective of supporting policy makers with evidence to inform their decisions.
Overview of Open Drug Discovery of Anti-Virals Critical for Canada’s Pandemic
Canada needs a proactive innovation strategy to address current COVID-19 needs and to anticipate future pandemics. Canada and governments around the world made a tactical error in failing to build public capacity to develop novel anti-virals, preferring instead to hand off drug discovery and development to the private sector. In contrast, open science can support mission-oriented research and development (R&D), as well as commercialization. Open science shares skills and resources across sectors; avoids duplication; and provides the basis for rapid and effective validation due to full transparency. It is a strategy that can adjust quickly to reflect changing incentives and priorities, because it does not rely on any one actor or sector. While eschewing patents, it can ensure high quality drugs, low pricing and access through existing regulatory mechanisms. Open science practices and partnerships decrease transaction costs, increase diversity of actors, reduce overall costs, open new, higher-risk/higher-impact approaches to research and provide entrepreneurs freedom to operate and freedom to innovate. We argue that it is time to re-open science, not only in its now restricted arena of fundamental research, but throughout clinical translation.
Authors of the Report
Tania Bubela (Chair), Professor and Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Aled Edwards, Professor, Molecular Genetics and Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON; Canada and Chief Executive, Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), London, UK
E. Richard Gold, James McGill Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Vivek Goel, Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Max Morgan, Legal Consultant & Corporate Secretary, M4K Pharma, Inc., Toronto, ON, Canada; Chief Policy Officer and Senior Counsel, SGC, Toronto, ON, Canada
Karen Mossman, Vice President, Research and Professor, Pathology and Molecular Medicine, McMaster Immunology, Research Centre, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Jason Nickerson, Adjunct Professor, University of Ottawa and Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada
David Patrick, Director of Research, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control; Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
This report has also been published in the FACETS collection of RSC Policy Briefings.
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