Stephen Friend discusses open network modeling in Science magazine

Creating models for the biology of diseases such as cancer and diabetes requires vast amounts of data. According to Stephen Friend, Editorial Board member of Open Network Biology, "the scale of and scope of the problem will need to be solved by sharing the data and networking.”

In an in-depth profile published by Science this month, Friend, open access activist and founder of SAGE bionetworks, discusses the challenge of using the open source ethos to create what he calls ‘a new kind of science’. “What I realized was that drug discovery would continue to be consistently hampered by the lack of good models of disease. And to build those models was going to take massive amounts of data being shared over many iterations, over decades”.

Charting his rise from a Philosophy student with an interest in medical ethics to pediatric oncologist, Friend describes how observing a father and son with a rare inherited eye disorder moved him to take his first tentative steps into research, accepting a post doctoral position with Cancer oncologist Robert Weinberg. From here it was a short step to setting up his own lab and eventually founding Rosetta Inpharmatics with collaborators Leroy Hood and Leland Hartwell.

Realizing that the kind of network data that Rosetta was engaged in required megascale analyses, and that no single company could do this alone, Friend went on to establish Sage Bionetworks. Based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre this non-for-profit team of computational biologists are attempting to bring to biomedical science the same open source ethos that motivates sites like Wikipedia.

Open Network Biology Editorial Board members will be meeting at this month’s Keystone symposia on ‘Complex Traits: Genomics and Computational Approaches’ to discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in network based modelling. Eric Schadt, Editor-in-Chief of Open Network Biology, and long time collaborator with Stephen Friend, says of the Sage Bionetworks founder:

“Stephen has a very idealistic vision of how we as scientists in the bio-arena should be working together and why that hasn’t happened.”

To find out more about Stephen Friend and his advocacy of open source science read the full article (paywalled). For more information on the work of Open Network Biology and its contribution to network-based modelling take a look at the journal website.

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