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Wellcome Open Res. 2018 Dec 6;3:154. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.14947.1. eCollection 2018.

Ideation and implementation of an open science drug discovery business model - M4K Pharma.

Author information

University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5G 1L7, Canada.
M4K Pharma, Toronto, ON, M5G 1L7, Canada.
Structural Genomics Consortium, London, UK.


M4K Pharma was incorporated to launch an open science drug discovery program that relies on regulatory exclusivity as its primary intellectual property and commercial asset, in lieu of patents.In many cases and in key markets, using regulatory exclusivity can provide equivalent commercial protection to patents, while also being compatible with open science. The model is proving attractive to government, foundation and individual funders, who collectively have different expectations for returns on investment compared with biotech, pharmaceutical companies, or venture capital investors.In the absence of these investor-driven requirements for returns, it should be possible to commercialize therapeutics at affordable prices.M4K is piloting this open science business model in a rare paediatric brain tumour, but there is no reason it should not be more widely applicable.


Open science; open drug discovery; rare diseases; regulatory exclusivity

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: MM acts as a legal consultant to M4K Pharma. OR is CEO of M4K Pharma. AE chairs the Board of M4K Pharma. All the equity of M4K is owned by a charity.

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