15 March 2021

Matthew O'Connor

Marketing Manager

With pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and health organisations having worked together to find Covid-19 vaccines, we’ve been thinking about the value of open source tech.

While the race to develop, trial and distribute Covid-19 vaccines hasn’t been open source in the purest sense of the world, there has been considerably more collaboration than you would normally expect in the traditionally closed pharmaceutical industry.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), had urged for a new culture of openness to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.

He said: “I call on all countries, companies, and research institutions to support open data, open science, and open collaboration so all people can enjoy the benefits of science and research.”

 

Pooling resources

The approach called for by Dr Ghebreyesus has largely been adopted, with some pharmaceutical companies teaming up with universities and other research institutions to speed up their process. The joint-project between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is perhaps the best-known example of that.

Then there is COVAX, the initiative coordinated by the WHO, the vaccine alliance GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which has seen many of the world’s candidate vaccines working together to pool resources, mitigate the risks of unsuccessful vaccines and ensure fair distribution of effective vaccines around the world.

Many of the vaccines you will have heard of, including the Inovio, Moderna and AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccines, signed up to COVAX to combine their buying power and ensure resources were focused on research and development, not competing against each other over production infrastructure.

 

Sharing fundamentals, pushing boundaries

It’s a similar spirit to that found in open source technologies and one that we have always tried to embrace when developing online learning. By sharing the fundamentals, everyone can focus more time on pushing the boundaries.

We’re active members of both the Moodle and Totara communities. Our developers frequently add to the open-source code of both platforms to share new functionality with others. Similarly, we’ve relied on tried and tested open-source code and plugins so that we can focus our clients’ budgets to develop bespoke functionality in areas where the features needed don’t currently exist.

We might not be directly curing deadly diseases, but this approach does have a real-world impact. For example, sharing open-source tech:

Here’s to that open source spirit continuing to thrive in pharmaceuticals, online learning and elsewhere.

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