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The sharing economy and medical research

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The sharing economy and medical research

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I recently wrote about the rise of the maker movement, and how projects such as BioCurious and Genspace are giving researchers and citizen scientists alike access to cutting edge medical research equipment on a gym membership style basis.

The services are a great example of how assets can be better utilized, which is of course a feature of the sharing economy.  Another fantastic example of this in action in the biotech world is at Science Exchange, the New Zealand based start-up that aims to provide access to the best labs in the world.

The theory behind setting up the site was that the majority of (expensive) lab equipment is under-utilized.  Aside from the economic inefficiencies of this, it’s also a crying shame that such tremendously valuable equipment gets under used by the scientific world.

And so Science Exchange was born to try and rectify that situation by offering a marketplace for researchers to rent lab space for their experiments.  The service provides the usual mixture of ratings and reviews for each lab so that researchers can gauge the best fit for their needs, before of course running the sums for cost effectiveness.

There are something akin to 1,000 labs listed on the site, and between them they have handled nearly $50m worth of projects across around 6,000 experiments.

It’s an approach that chimes with the recent UK government report into the sharing economy and how it can be supported.  One of the primary recommendations in the report was for the government to become a more active player in the marketplace.

I advocated recently that the National Health Service utilize sharing marketplaces such as Floow2 to better utilize their vast property portfolio, but Science Exchange highlight just what can be achieved with medical resources too.

You can see Elizabeth Iorns, founder of Science Exchange discussing how she perceives the new ways of doing science research enabled by platforms like her own at the end of this post.

There question will be of course, whether private research labs are willing to share facilities that they may well feel give them a competitive advantage over their rivals.  We’ve seen with the likes of BioCurious a willingness to be more open with asset management in the hope that doing so places the biotech company at the heart of the research ecosystem.

With the IP landscape in pharma research still being relatively secrative however, it does require something of a culture shift for projects like this to take off.  All of which may see the initial participants in the platform being academic and state funded labs that don’t have that imperative.

What does seem increasingly clear however is that there are a growing number of projects pulling in this direction.  It seems only a matter of time before the dam bursts.

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