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Gates Pushes Open-Source Approach to HIV Research 134

dan the person writes that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "has donated $287m to 16 different research groups around the world to work on developing an HIV vaccine. The catch? They have to share their work even if the groups were previously competing against each other. Sounds like a familiar development model to me, I wonder where I have seen it before?" Besides the BBC's coverage, the Seattle Times has a good story about the grant, with a few more details about how the money will be spent.
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Gates Pushes Open-Source Approach to HIV Research

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  • Happy that he apparently understands how progress can be achieved most efficiently, or sad that his (previous) company does anything it can to stop this kind of progress in the IT field, even though their previous boss apparently knows very well what the consequence of that is....
    • by CaymanIslandCarpedie ( 868408 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:57AM (#15750393) Journal
      company does anything it can to stop this kind of progress in the IT field, even though their previous boss apparently knows very well what the consequence of that is....

      Until the consequence of lack of innovation in the IT field is millions of deaths I think you trivializing HIV/AIDS to try to make a point.
      • Until the consequence of lack of innovation in the IT field is millions of deaths I think you trivializing HIV/AIDS to try to make a point.

        And you unwittingly trivialized the impact of greed in the free market :-)

        Your attitude, intention, and outlook are really what matter. What fields you apply yourself to is just details. So if you have the intention of helping people and making their lives happier and better, that will naturally affect how you create software or how you search for cures.

        Your act

        • We have to ultimately decide if we want to invest our time in increasing quality of life, or in increasing quality of death. These are the main two motivational factors.

          I'd prefer quality of life, I like the idea of working hard for years as life continues to get better and better. I don't like the idea of working hard as life continues to get worse and worse, more dangerous, and shorter.

          How many people here actually agree on supporting quality of life?
      • Until the consequence of lack of innovation in the IT field is millions of deaths

        One question: where are those millions of deaths by HIV/AIDS happening? That epidemy first became widespread in the USA/Canada, but it was contained there about twenty years ago. Yet it still seems to be one of the main causes of death in Africa. So, yes, there is a close correlation between technological innovation and saving lives.

        A very interesting example on how proper information management can save lives is in the book "

    • by LithiumX ( 717017 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @12:14PM (#15750549)
      Microsoft's job is not to expand the boundries of IT for all, it's to make money. While OpenSource and GPL software has shown that it can be profitable, that's not where the real money has ever been for individual companies. Therefore, they stick with privatized licensed software models. Since HIV research isn't a matter of profit for him, he'll go with what's the most efficient method for across-the-board advances. Makes perfect sense to me.
    • What? Of course we should be happy.

      Just because you don't have a high opinion of Gates or his companies practices doesn't mean that this is a "sad" developement. There is a huge difference between curing a disease and the operation of a private company.

      Despite what a lot of people in the "the market will solve it" crowd here think certain things should not be privatised, medical research being one of them.
      • Despite what a lot of people in the "the market will solve it" crowd here think certain things should not be privatised, medical research being one of them.

        Clever you, except for the fact that this IS an example of privatized medical research. The example says the opposite of what you want it to say.

        -stormin
      • certain things should not be privatised, medical research being one of them.

        So - wait. You think Gates shouldn't be allowed to invest his private funds in medical research?

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @11:53AM (#15750348) Journal
    I read both articles and I don't recall seeing anywhere that they would allow anyone access to their findings and research. I believe that open source means anyone can access it and contribute if they wish. I believe that their findings will still be restricted to the 16 groups involved. That's no more open source than 16 companies banding together to create a software suite and keeping the source closed to only themselves.

    Either way, I'm never going to be able to see the research or dump the data in to Weka and try to find correlations by mixing and matching data mining algorithms on lab data.

    Also, I think it's stupid that the story implied irony that Gates doesn't use the open source model in software:
    The catch? They have to share their work even if the groups were previously competing against each other. Sounds like a familiar development model to me, I wonder where I have seen it before?
    I don't know where you got that quote because I can't find it in either of the linked articles. People's lives depend on a cure/vaccine/treatment for HIV/AIDS. People's lives do not depend on the development of software--especially Microsoft software, thank god. They are two very different development efforts with very different ethical connotations.
    • Give the guy some credit. Gotta crawl before you can run.
    • ...their findings will still be restricted to the 16 groups involved
      Sounds like he's trying to make the HIV research community into one big monolithic business. More like Microsoft than Open Source?
    • > People's lives do not depend on the development of software--especially Microsoft software, thank god. They are two very different development efforts with very different ethical connotations.

      Hmmm. No, you're wrong. People's lives can depend on software. In my Data Structures class, the TA told us a horror story about a case where an operating system race condition in a chemotherapy machine resulted in people being given lethal doses of radiation.

      Now as far as M$ software ... the dependence wouldn't
    • I'm glad you read the article carefully enough to point out flaws in the submission. I do, however, disagree with the following:

      "People's lives do not depend on the development of software--especially Microsoft software, thank god."

      Ever think that mistakes in software -- even just in poorly designed interfaces -- have been directly responsible for wrong medical procedures or analyses or the like? Or that because of software flaws (some of which can be attributed to MS, but obviously not all), people's ide
    • Open source actually doesn't mean much. You could do whatever and call it open source. That's the marketing beauty of the term, but it has nothing to do with it.

      Open source doesn't require you to share the information you have, or the source.

      Even free software doesn't. When you distribute GPLed software, you are obliged to distribute the source too, and pass certain freedoms to the guy that receives it.
      But most important, it doesn't say that you have to share it at all!!!
      If you have a lab, for example, and
    • I don't know where you got that quote because I can't find it in either of the linked articles. People's lives depend on a cure/vaccine/treatment for HIV/AIDS. People's lives do not depend on the development of software--especially Microsoft software, thank god. They are two very different development efforts with very different ethical connotations.

      I love this argument.

      "Gates deserves his billions, he's had such a HUGELY IMPORTANT impact on the world! Computers have become life-saving technology, our qua
      • You're putting a lot of words in peoples mouths here. The parent post was suggesting that there is a huge difference between finding a cure for HIV/AIDS and marketing an operating system. To argue with that is retarded.

        Yes, computers are important. Competition among software vendors is important. Yes, Microsoft has a history of stifling that competition. But the computer industry is business. Businesses try to make money. That's why they're there.

        Curing AIDS on the other hand should be thought of as a hum

    • I read both articles and I don't recall seeing anywhere that they would allow anyone access to their findings and research.

      Actually this matches the GPL quite well. The GPL does not require you to make the source code publically available. It requires you to supply the source code to whoever you give/sell the program to. Thus there is no reason for the public to be able to see the code if all the parties agree to share only with themselves.

      [The GPL also requires you to allow the person receiving the program
    • Actually the data is amazingly transperent right now, fifteen minutes on google links after searching for "cd4 gp120" you'll find enough data about HIV infections of CD4 T killer cells to make anybodies head spin. As most research is government funded the data is pretty much available, try looking at the HIV sequence database [lanl.gov] over at Los Almos National Laboratories [lanl.gov], all kinds of geek toys, FAQs and tutorials there. you can even run polypeptide and nuecleotide sequences against the HIV genome. The hard part
  • Wrong title (Score:1, Funny)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 )

    since we're talking about AIDS, shouldn't it be "Open Sores", and not "Open Source" ?

    • Re:Wrong title (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Adelbert ( 873575 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @12:09PM (#15750517) Journal
      Making jokes about a devastating mass illness that ruined the lives of many, many people from all over the world. That's ... tasteful.
      • Tasteful and funny need not be the same. Also, if you want tasteful, the internet is the wrong place. I thought the joke was funny. Now just let me think up a few about cancer...
      • What? Are we only supposed to joke about nice things like ponies and fluffy pillows?
      • I guess whoever rated it as flamebait missed the irony - the history of Microsoft calling Open Source a virus ...

        ... if you wanted a joke about open sores and taste:

        A leper was eating his Big Mac, when he noticed another patron staring at him, ashen-faced, not eating his Happy Meal.

        He walked over to the guy and said, "look I know my appearance has ruined your meal. Please, let me pay for another one."

        The other customer said "No, its not you."

        The leper returned to his seat, but a few minutes later

    • mod parent up (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      oh, i see. south park can mnake a joke and its funny, but it does on /. and now all the sudden we are all serious. and besides, parent didn't make fun of the illness, he made a funny about how 'open source' is simlair to 'open sores'
  • by nitroamos ( 261075 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @12:13PM (#15750541)
    the goal of microsoft is to make money.
    the goal of bill gates' charity is to help people.

    why should it be surprising if gates uses different methods to accomplish different goals?
  • Precedent (Score:1, Interesting)

    by krell ( 896769 )
    Whenever Gates pushes for open source anything, it is always wise to consider it in the light of historic precedent:

    "Joshua Pushes for Jericho to have Open Wall Policy"

    Greeks Push for Trojan "Open Gate" Policy.
  • by hotspotbloc ( 767418 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @12:48PM (#15750823) Homepage Journal
    I use to hate BG as much as the next person ("Burn [him] like a witch if I wasn't afraid of the fumes" - Drew Cary) but it seems to me that he is placing the same effort that he did into making MS into a "success" now with his foundation. Granted IMO it's being done with stolen funds but still if he can do to TB what he did to Lotus 1-2-3 he has to be thanked. If he's known for anything it's "hell or high water, he'll get the job done".


    Bill Gates reminds me of William Bulger: Brilliant, cunning, a great person to have on your side and a devastating enemy to have against you. Glad those guns are pointed towards HIV and TB.


    Maybe it's time to separate the BG of MS and the BG of the Gates Foundation. It's seems he has.

    • Bill Gates has donated more to charity than either Rockefeller, Vanderbuilt, or Carnegie. And that's adjusted for inflation.
    • "Gates' game is given away by the fact that his Foundation has invested $200 million in the very drug companies stopping the shipment of low-cost AIDS drugs to Africa.

      "[He] says his plan is to reach one million people with medicine by the end of the decade. Another way to read it: he's locking in a trade system that will effectively block the delivery of medicine to over 20 million."

      Killing Africans for profit and PR [gregpalast.com]
  • It's great that Gates is trying to promote sharing. Much depends on the attitudes of the researchers. Some may see the others as competitors who could scoop them. Those who feel that way will try to conceal their real attitudes, paying lip service to the openess requirements, while making sure that it will be hard for anyone following in their footsteps to pass them. The way PhD work is done encourages this sort of paranoid, selfish thinking. You've got to have an advisor you can trust not to blab, or
  • Think about it as such. 287 million to research a cure.

    or

    Spend 3 billion of your own money to develop a treatment.

    100 million people with AIDS (total guess) X $10 / week = $1 Billion dollars per week for the rest of their lives, and you ensure a new generation of "customers."

    Yes, there are people doing research that would love to find a cure, but it takes a pharmaceutical giant to engineer, manufacture, and distribute. I wish him luck, but don't expect anyhting monumental from it.

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