Scientific Cures and Breakthroughs Happen Through Collaboration, Study Finds

Science tends to advance fastest when the research is open, and this is one of many studies that confirm that there is too much competition and too little cooperation in society today. The study is also evidence against the pharmaceutical research financing failure that is drug patent monopolies. Corporations have an incentive to share as little of their research as possible to be granted their drug patent monopolies because doing otherwise would risk threats to their profit margins.

Basic research can lead to cures, drugs and other scientific breakthroughs through collaboration, confirms a new study in Heliyon. Understanding the extent of the collaboration that leads to breakthroughs could help research institutions plan and evaluate their own collaborative efforts.

The authors of the new study, from NET ESOLUTIONS Corporation (NETE), Gladstone Institutes, UCSF, and Elsevier, combined data mining with old-fashioned detective techniques to understand what led to the development of five major anti-cancer drugs. Their results reveal how research collaboration, grants and publications combined to make the drugs possible.

“I think our work serves as a reminder that basic science preceded and influenced these translational breakthroughs through collaboration,” said corresponding author Dr. George Chacko of NETE. “Public funding of basic research has many translational benefits; the inherently collaborative nature of scientific discovery leads to breakthroughs.”

In the study, the researchers used anti-cancer drugs as case studies for their methodology. They data mined public and commercial data sources, including: clinical trials; Food and Drug Administration (FDA) documents; patent applications; grant applications; and peer-reviewed papers on Scopus and PubMed.

To map the history of the development of five drugs — Imatinib, Sunitinib, Nelarabine, Ramucirumab and Alemtuzumab (Campath) — the team identified more than 235 researchers in five large networks, who collectively produced 106,000 peer-reviewed papers. They analyzed citations to identify a core set of publications that were cited in all the networks, including 14 publications that were common to all five networks.

“We were surprised (and delighted) by the small number of cited publications that were common to the collaboration networks, and surprised to discover how influential they were in shaping future thought,” commented Dr. Chacko.

The researchers say their new approach can be easily modified and extended to other areas. It can be used to document the very large scientific collaborations that occur over many years and span basic to translational research, revealing how collaboration results in discovery and innovation that benefits the public.