I do not remember exactly when I joined the InnoCentive community but I remember that I was skeptical about the concept of InnoCentive. I was concerned that I might lose intellectual property rights if I disclosed my ideas for a problem that was not chosen for the winning solution.Despite this I decided to try it and submitted a solution for a theoretical problem in 2003, Biological Targets for Inflammation. This problem required me to identify five new biological targets for the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals to treat inflammation. The proposed targets needed to be the ones to which no FDA-approved drug is known. A scientific literature search yielded a few targets which I proposed in my solution. However, because I was so skeptical about the system, instead of proposing five targets, I wrote only three targets thinking that it was a waste of my time. To my surprise, two of the targets I proposed were selected for the award.
Over the next three years I did not see many Challenges that interested me. I submitted 2 or 3 solutions without much enthusiasm. I usually selected the Challenges that required only written solutions and did not require me to do actual experiments to validate the solution.
My curiosity in drug discovery led me to actively participate in another Challenge in 2006 even though I knew nothing about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). After reading the strategies and descriptions of the treatments in the Challenge, I immediately knew the solution but confirmed it by conducting a literature survey.
I was concerned that it was not a drug that is approved by FDA or in clinical trials, it was an over the counter supplement, resveratrol (It has been disclosed in the DMDetank web site). I was not sure whether the Seeker would accept a supplement in the proposal but I thought if it works, it can be easily administered without much hassle or FDA approval. I couldn’t believe it when my proposal was selected and the Seeker started testing the drug on mice. It gives me pleasure to know that the recent scientific literature has confirmed further the usefulness of resveratrol. This is one of my favorite solutions due to its implications for possible future treatment for those that suffer from DMD and have to take lots of pills daily. This will reduce the number of pills an individual has to take if proven effective in animal/human testing.
2007 was an exciting year for me with three winning solutions and recognition as one of the Top Solvers by InnoCentive. It is exciting to see the different problems facing the industry in one place. Several of the problems the drug discovery industry is facing seem simple, but after looking at the description one will realize how big the problem is.
Many of the industrial problems are never seen or heard outside of the industry. InnoCentive is helping the drug discovery industry by grouping scientists/researchers with various backgrounds and posting problems from various disciplines so that registered users can see the description of the Challenge in one place. This is something I really like about InnoCentive. I encourage everyone to read each Challenge posted even if it doesn’t fall into your area of expertise and to search on the Internet to get some information on the problem which will help in thinking about the solution in a novel way.