Can the internet fuel drug development?

What happens when some cancer patients become frustrated with their treatment options?  They search for a cure on their own. Some raise money to build awareness; others donate to further research.

Dr. Jay Tenenbaum, an e-commerce pioneer who is battling melanoma that spread to his liver, took a different approach:  he created a company to allow patients to discover new drugs with the help of the internet. 

CollabRx builds and operates "virtual biotechs" for people seeking cures on their own.  The CollabRx platform connects researchers to one another and to a network of scientific services.  Wealthy individuals, foundations and patient groups can join in to financially support specific research activities.  The system encourages researchers to share information and collaborate, going against the grain of the traditional scientific process.

While it’s unclear whether the concept will work, CollabRx highlights how the internet is starting to affect drug development.  Some of our sponsors are starting to recognize how the internet can help them recruit patients for their trials.  While pharmaceutical companies may be slow to pick up on the power of the web, patients seem to be a few steps ahead.

Amy Dockser Marcus provides a detailed look at CollabRx in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  She also provides excellent tips for patients who want to make a difference in the search for a cure.