Patent-free and crowd-funded by the bitcoin digital currency, Yonemoto’s project seeks to resurrect work on a promising anti-cancer compound called 9-deoxysibiromycin, or 9-DS. Early tests indicated it could provide a treatment for melanoma, kidney cancer, and breast cancer, but then, for various reasons, research on the compound was abandoned. So Yonemoto stepped in and restarted the project online, as if it was an open source software project, raising money for additional research through an online fundraising campaign.
The rub is that Gerratana took a job with the National Institute of Health and was unable to pursue the work. And because she had already published her research without patenting it, drug companies were unlikely to sponsor the work. The good news is that because it was never patented, it’s in the public domain. Anyone can work on it, kinda like open source software. Yonemoto, who had worked on the project under a grant, jumped in.
Last week, he launched a fund-raising campaign for the research, and so far, he has taken in $12,000 of the $50,000 he’ll need to test the compound on mice. About $2,000 of that comes from bitcoin donations. He calls the campaign Project Marilyn, and it’s just one fundraising up and running on his website Indysci.org, which you can think of as a kickstarter platform for open scientific research that will publish its data openly. “We’re going to push the data to a decentralized server—possibly GitHub,” he says, referring to the popular service for hosting open source software projects.