The Linux of Vaccines

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The article below shows an example how collaborative development resulted in a faster, better, stronger product - and how this product was denied becuase it did not result in medicine-for-profit.

  • Good article - [1]
  • Notes:
  • Because vaccines can only be produced in laboratories owned or authorized by the patent holders, most of the world’s pharmaceutical factories lie idle.
  • The need to discover the next breakthrough proprietary product has many corrosive effects on research. It incentivizes companies to conceal their findings from each other and from the wider scientific community, even at the cost of human health. The intellectual property–free “open-source” model aims to reverse this and turn research into a multilateral collaborative effort rather than a race to invent and reinvent the wheel. When it comes to COVID-19 specifically, the stalling impact of the contemporary funding model is felt most acutely at the final stages: getting the finished product approved and into use. Whatever time was lost during the early days of the pandemic due to lack of collaboration and trade secrets, virologist Saksela points out, is relatively insignificant. In fact, the development of all first-generation COVID-19 shots has been straightforward.
  • “The background research was finished in an afternoon, which then set the direction for all of them,” Saksela says. “Based on what we already know about SARS-1 and MERS, it was all quite obvious — not some triumph of science.” Instead of introducing an inactivated or weakened germ into the human body, the new coronavirus shots train our immune system to respond to a “spike protein” — in itself, harmless — which forms the characteristic protrusions on the virus’s surface. The widely shared understanding of this mechanism predates the pharmaceutical companies’ contributions. This raises questions about the impact of patent-driven research on the end product. To what extent is the work guided by medical efficacy, and how much is based on the need to retain proprietary ownership? “Different biotech firms would slap the spike protein onto some type of delivery mechanism, whether it was RNA technology or something else,” Saksela explains. “And typically, the choice is based on what applications they have a patent on, whether it’s the best option or not.”


The Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative is a free and open-source vaccine R&D project. We are a group of citizen scientists who are concerned about the staggering costs of the current pandemic (and from possible future pandemics). The death toll is large and growing, but many more who survive the initial infection will suffer serious enduring complications. Our experience in the biomedical sciences allowed us to realize in the early stages of the pandemic that a commercial vaccine would not be widely available through the end of 2020, and during that time the cost in human lives and health would be staggering; therefore, we mobilized quickly to address this problem. We have used our knowledge and skills in biomedical research to develop SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, which we are testing on ourselves. We’ve published our approach in the white paper available for download on this website. We also aim to connect with other citizen scientists who wish to make and deploy the vaccine, to build on our approach, to advance the sharing of ideas, data, and best practices.

RaDVaC - [2]