Across industries, companies are realizing the potential of crowdsourcing as a source for innovation. One of these industries is the Pharma industry. Open innovation in pharma represents a revolution in how we can get life saving and life quality improving innovation to patients. Solving for the lengthy and costly R&D processes required to bring a product to market on the one hand, and the lack of experience and resources for many of the sources of innovative ideas (e.g. academia and the public) on the other hand. In terms of financial implications, Patents expiring are estimated to pose a USD 125 Bn revenue risk to the large pharmaceutical companies, with new drug launches expected to offset only 40% of this amount. 
The average development cycle to bring a drug to market is ~8 years long . There is significant potential to shorten that, as shown by the Myelin Repair Foundation, where scientist across five universities created an IP-sharing agreement that allows MRF to retain the rights to license discoveries to pharma companies. This is expected to allow MRF to develop a drug 75% faster, compared to the current research methods. 
Across the various stages of the R&D funnel, pharma companies stand to gain most from collaborating on idea generation, screening and complex problem solving. Academia and smaller biotech companies/ research facilities stand to gain from the scale of the operations in pharmaceutical companies, coupled with their vast experience.
One area with great need for faster drug development is antibiotics, giving rise to the founding of the non- profit Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD). Antibiotic resistant bacteria are spreading, contributing to morbidity and mortality across the globe. The WHO is prioritizing research for novel antibiotics, as the pharmaceutical industry is failing to meet the demand for new molecules. Only 2 new classes of antibiotics have been developed and approved by international drug agencies in the last 2 decades.  There is no shortage in new chemical compounds being created in various research institutes, the issue is screening them and developing them into viable commercial products. , 
Since launching the program in 2015, CO-ADD has screened over 80,000 compounds from 35 countries, testing them for anti-microbial activity, focusing on the most life- threatening antibiotic- resistant bacteria.  The group expects their members (88 groups across 26 countries) to deliver 300,000 additional compounds, most of which will be screened by automatic processes (high throughput screening). So far, the CO-ADD has compared their results and found a 20-30 higher hit- rate compared to that of established pharmaceutical companies’ commercial library of biological activity. In a single year, the CO-ADD was able to discover 128 hits, or relevant molecules. 
CO-ADD is not making any claims to Intellectual Property (IP), and the founder describes the collaboration as “No strings attached at all… taking open access to the nth degree”. Pharma giants such as AstraZeneca, Merck, Leo and more are not far behind, each offering a compound screening platform. However, since these companies do have “strings attached” to any collaboration, CO-ADD is attracting a substantially larger number of researchers. 
With current hit numbers supporting a substantial potential for new drugs, it remains to be seen if CO-ADD can carry these drugs to the finish line, given the long, complex and expensive R&D cycles. In addition, large pharmaceutical companies are investing more in comparable programs, tailoring them to researchers based on individual feedback they collect from their potential collaborators.
To keep researchers submitting potential molecules in the long term, the CO-ADD needs to establish credibility, successfully collaborating with large pharma companies to ensure ongoing medicine development. One way to do that is by proactively partnering with large pharma companies, finding a way to provide exclusivity or other means of financial incentives to develop the antibiotics (e.g. government support).
CO-ADD will need to find a way to realize their vision: continuously identifying a broad range of molecules but also developing them into medicines that can save lives. Can a non- profit organization- reliant on for- profit organizations which are actively competing with it remain relevant in the long run? Can they keep researchers engaged for almost a decade, while a drug completes its development cycle? (702 words)
- Getz, Kenneth A. Transforming R&D Through Open Innovation. http://www.appliedclinicaltrialsonline.com/transforming-rd-through-open-innovation. Accessed 10 Nov. 2018.
- The next Step in Open Innovation | McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/the-next-step-in-open-innovation. Accessed 10 Nov. 2018.
- Tacconelli, Evelina, et al. “Discovery, Research, and Development of New Antibiotics: The WHO Priority List of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Tuberculosis.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases, vol. 18, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 318–27. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30753-3.
- McGilvray, Annabel. “Compound Screening: Fresh Hunting Ground.” Nature, vol. 533, May 2016, pp. S65–67. www.nature.com, doi:10.1038/533S65a.
- Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery website, http://www.co-add.org