Commercial or non-profit organization for the project?

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Andrew VoronkovProject donor
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Message 1467 - Posted: 7 Oct 2009, 6:59:27 UTC
Last modified: 7 Oct 2009, 7:08:42 UTC

This branch is created specially to discuss the management policies and development strategies of the project.
As far as distributed computing projects rely on volunteer computing we want to base our porject on feedback from crunchers. We'll be glad to know your opinion on organizational form for the project.
The discovery of new drugs always requires partnerships with many organizations. Some of these should be scientific collaboration partnerships and some will of course be contract research partnerships.
The main goal of our team is in silico discovery of new compounds with new mechanisms of action and reduction of drug discovery process costs (which should lead to medicines costs reduction and more discovery possibilities for the same funding) by involvement of in silico drug design, molecular modeling and QSAR methods as much as possible.
But for our collaborations with research institutes and pharmaceutical companies we need a legal entity.
We have two options now - commercial entity (LLC) and non-commercial.
First option seems like more simple to create and gives more operational flexibility. Second option can help for participation in some grants.
So the question is if it is ok for crunching for commercial organization, but with disclosed policies? (we partially regard on experience of Find-a-drug at home project which was operated by commercial company).
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Message 1472 - Posted: 8 Oct 2009, 21:20:11 UTC - in response to Message 1467.  


So the question is if it is ok for crunching for commercial organization, but with disclosed policies? (we partially regard on experience of Find-a-drug at home project which was operated by commercial company).


IMO; Yes, as long as the project is an open book. sort-of like how seti has their site cost system setup... i wish i could find the page but am having zero luck on that..

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Message 1474 - Posted: 8 Oct 2009, 21:33:37 UTC - in response to Message 1472.  

Not sure if you're saying Seti is a commercial organization or not (they aren't), but the two links you're looking for are easily found from your account there.

As per the donate to Seti page: "SETI@home is a nonprofit educational and research organization that relies significantly on donations to continue operations."

The Seti donation history you look for is here.
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Message 1475 - Posted: 8 Oct 2009, 22:50:12 UTC - in response to Message 1474.  
Last modified: 8 Oct 2009, 22:51:09 UTC

Not sure if you're saying Seti is a commercial organization or not (they aren't), but the two links you're looking for are easily found from your account there.

As per the donate to Seti page: "SETI@home is a nonprofit educational and research organization that relies significantly on donations to continue operations."

The Seti donation history you look for is here.



no, i wasn't saying that seti was commercial and i was pointing to their cost page..... which i can't seem to find...

Example: X amount for bandwidth, X for server costs, and so on.

just so that everyone knows where money/funds are going..
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Message 1478 - Posted: 8 Oct 2009, 23:12:58 UTC - in response to Message 1475.  

i was pointing to their cost page..... which i can't seem to find...

Linked from the Donate page (that I linked to): SAH Budget.
Jord

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Message 1482 - Posted: 9 Oct 2009, 6:51:35 UTC - in response to Message 1478.  
Last modified: 9 Oct 2009, 6:53:09 UTC

i was pointing to their cost page..... which i can't seem to find...

Linked from the Donate page (that I linked to): SAH Budget.


Wow...More than half of a million, we can push up development of our project significantly only with 20% of that anually during 1-2 years.
So it's not so much importance that which type of organization we have, but the detailed financial report is of main importance?
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Message 1503 - Posted: 9 Oct 2009, 17:02:06 UTC - in response to Message 1482.  

Some non-profits are good but it should be pointed out, that non-profits are not always virtuous entities. They can become bureaucracies that exist to only support their executives and provide very little public good. Many end up paying board members over $200K salaries. Not all non-profits are the same. Likewise not all commercial entities are the same. What is important is what type of philosophy we follow to attract volunteers. If we can make that philosophy match a legal structure with bylaws, then we have achieved our goal.
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Message 1506 - Posted: 10 Oct 2009, 3:26:21 UTC - in response to Message 1503.  
Last modified: 10 Oct 2009, 3:43:41 UTC

Some non-profits are good but it should be pointed out, that non-profits are not always virtuous entities. They can become bureaucracies that exist to only support their executives and provide very little public good. Many end up paying board members over $200K salaries. Not all non-profits are the same. Likewise not all commercial entities are the same. What is important is what type of philosophy we follow to attract volunteers. If we can make that philosophy match a legal structure with bylaws, then we have achieved our goal.


Yep, several main reasons:
1) Volunteers (seems like many people are ok with commercial organization)
2) Sources of financing (grants and/or services)
3) Partner collaborations (institutes and/or pharmaceutical companies)

LLC is more flexible with all of this.

And as Jorden has noted, the non-profit project can be operated by commercial company.
Anyway the main goal is to make world better. Distributed computing is based seriously on public relations with volunteer community. So even if project is commercial and has contracts with pharmaceutical companies then volunteers can always vote for/ or against project development strategy by their computing powers.
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Message 1507 - Posted: 10 Oct 2009, 7:38:12 UTC - in response to Message 1506.  

Well, a lot of team and participants pay very attention of the statuts of the research.
For example, in l'AF if a projet is a commercial project (the results are not published), even if it still helps science, l'AF will rank this project into a cat called "non recommanded" project.
Hence, only few people crunch on that...

There are several cases like that.
IMO, the project can be a commercial entity, but the research has to be published/free/open.
If there are several companies which can have access to these results, the science will even go faster. Obviously, the project (whatever it is a non for profit or not) has a real advantage and then can be the first to enter into the market/create something based on the results (and even put a patent on their products as long as the results are "open")

But the most suitable for the community is a non commercial entity for a better transparancy.

But you can try to conciliate both aspect.
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Message 1513 - Posted: 12 Oct 2009, 17:54:46 UTC - in response to Message 1507.  

Well, a lot of team and participants pay very attention of the statuts of the research.
For example, in l'AF if a projet is a commercial project (the results are not published), even if it still helps science, l'AF will rank this project into a cat called "non recommanded" project.
Hence, only few people crunch on that...

There are several cases like that.
IMO, the project can be a commercial entity, but the research has to be published/free/open.
If there are several companies which can have access to these results, the science will even go faster. Obviously, the project (whatever it is a non for profit or not) has a real advantage and then can be the first to enter into the market/create something based on the results (and even put a patent on their products as long as the results are "open")

But the most suitable for the community is a non commercial entity for a better transparancy.

But you can try to conciliate both aspect.


If we'll make a commercial entity and make research results be published and freely available - will AF recommend it? For example we just don't want to make both non-profit and commercial entities and we plan to make money not on Drugdiscovery@home but on other services and we'll use commercial entity just to get grant support directly for DD@H with transparent financial policy for users too, is it ok?
I mean we don't want to make Drugdiscovery@home commercial, we just consider to give other services than drugdiscovery@home project and don't want to take upon ourselves care both on non-profit and commercial organizations.
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Message 1517 - Posted: 12 Oct 2009, 22:09:09 UTC - in response to Message 1513.  


If we'll make a commercial entity and make research results be published and freely available - will AF recommend it? For example we just don't want to make both non-profit and commercial entities and we plan to make money not on Drugdiscovery@home but on other services and we'll use commercial entity just to get grant support directly for DD@H with transparent financial policy for users too, is it ok?
I mean we don't want to make Drugdiscovery@home commercial, we just consider to give other services than drugdiscovery@home project and don't want to take upon ourselves care both on non-profit and commercial organizations.


L'AF will recommend it as long as, the project is not illegal or not very legal..., results are freely available, that we know what we are crunching (OpenSource is the best, but not necessary) and admins are reliable (Not like predictor@home), the project will definitively be recommended.... Which is actually your case infact ! And hope it will always be. (As you have done a really good job so far !)

If you don't want to care about doing a non for profit / Commercial organisation (Which I really understand), will you only provide support to the project, and DD will be owned by another part ?

Anyway as long as the project is not directly commercial, it is good for l'AF (And I guess for a lot of other people)

If we can help this project in any way, tell us !
(I love this project and people here :p )
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Message 1519 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 6:55:07 UTC - in response to Message 1507.  
Last modified: 13 Oct 2009, 6:57:14 UTC


If there are several companies which can have access to these results, the science will even go faster.

And another point is actually that the statement above is not always the case. If we go into drug discovery and not some fundamental problems like folding, then the patenting of results is required. The development of new drugs accorindg to FDA requirements for example, requires a huge money on preclinical and clinical trials - at least half of a billion for each drug. Pharmaceutical companies don't invest such a huge money without getting patent protection. So if the compound is published without patent - it's dead as drug. I was working in early drug discovery company, ChemDiv, which has lots of small/middle/big pharma partners worldwide and they even don't consider development of new drugs without patents. So our goal is to make drug elaboration process cheaper by use of in slico drug design and volunteer computing, which will make the final drug prices cheaper. The other goal is to make drugs with new mecnahisns of action for major diseases. So maybe we should just explain all policies step-by-step and make clear financial reports, and publish results which can be published or after they're patented.
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Message 1521 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 12:11:13 UTC - in response to Message 1519.  

It's normal for company to protect itself with a patent within a limited period (For profitability reason, they have at least to cover their R&D costs). But in this actual case, if DD is supported by a commercial entity which will put a patent on the results... It will be very diffucult to gather enough "Volunteers" on this project I guess.... Why would people like to participate into this project if the company will make money with their CPU time... You know what I mean...
If the project has a direct commercial use, you will get less "crunching power" from the community because it's against of the actual BOINC's philosophy.

But as this project is more "practical" (less fundamental), as you said, than folding, etc... because the aim of the project is really to discover a drug, so it will have obviously a direct commercial prospect...
If the project is non for profit, in this case, a company could, after the results are published, just do the drug and put a patent on this, letting the others companies without any resort because results are not fundamentals...So the same than if the project was commercial... Right ?

If it is like that, it's a tricky situation.
As you said, relating to the findings, may be it would be possible to published the fundamental part...if any there is...then the project might not get a non recommended statuts...(Tricky situation as well)

But publishing results after the patent doesn't seems enough... A patent can last a long period....

Providing the infrastructure of network computing for the company in order to reduce the R&D cost is a really good idea for the company purpose, but would not have a big impact into the BOINC community.
Anyway, you will still be able to get volunteers but far less than you would have got.

If we take the list of BOINC projects, there are more than 50 projects and the ones with the most participants are usually the oldest one but particularly the ones which published results without any patent.
Difficult situation because the project will be very interesting for the science, medecine, but it may become a dead project as well....
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Message 1523 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 14:49:40 UTC - in response to Message 1521.  

One thing I've seen is a few BOINC projects do is make the results of workunits done through the BOINC site available publicly, but also make copies of the software used to do it available at a charge to researchers who prefer to protect their results at least long enough to patent them. For an example of a BOINC project than has done this, look at Rosetta@home.

In other words, a setup that is partly non-commercial and partly commercial.

Projects connected to universities tend to do this by letting the university sell copies of the software, rather than having the project offer it directly.
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Message 1524 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 15:25:17 UTC
Last modified: 13 Oct 2009, 17:55:27 UTC

It's important to understand what do we want to do here. If we want to make new drugs we should follow some rules. Which rules are more strict? BOINC philosophy or FDA requirements? For any volunteer main reason to volunteer - is to understand that he makes the right thing for good purpose and for good scientific reasons. So if he would contribute to something real useful like making a new drug, this is a plus and real competitive advantage for the project. I place myself as volunteer - I see lots of projects. I do really care on human health and wellness and health related projects are most important for me. I want real output, you know, not lots of scientific papers published, but something which will really help people, like making a drug candidate which enters clinical or preclinical trials. But from other side I don't want to be source of easy money for someone else. So what is the solution? Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure! I want to see where are money going! If you make patent and sell it and invest money from it into development of freely available QSAR and in silico drug design methods and in elaboration of new drugs - I m ok with that.

And in our project the real goal - is to making new drugs and elaborate in silico drug design methods. We just have to follow some rules and we need money for project development, without money it will be really dead.
So we can make next steps:
1) Open financial policy
2) Project will be non-profit, I mean no profit in the end of each year - all money invested in development of in silico drug discovery and project development and new drug elaboration. Everything should be clear.
3) All new technologies, like GPU GROMACS and GPU Autodock, all new software modification, all new algorithms - wll be available for free for all types of organizations.
4) All results will be published (but some after making patents). Non profit organizations like research institutes still make patents. You just can't make a good new drug without it.
5) Make conditions for each patent user - like making drug for modest prcies for developing countries or volunteers or any condition.
If volunteers understand why we want to make such a policy (and it should be approved by volunteers, we won't make a step without them) I'm sure this won't be competitive disadvantage to our project, but vice versa - competitive advantage as for project which really aims to make some real, applicable things.
PS all points 1-4 of course can be done by non-profit too, it also can have patents. So this is why I've started this thread. Main difference for us between non-profit and commercial organization is whether there will be some limitations on projects etc. So maybe we really can have non-profit for same steps and just work like research institute which elaborates new drugs.
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Message 1527 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 17:30:24 UTC - in response to Message 1524.  
Last modified: 13 Oct 2009, 17:52:19 UTC

OKay I see, and I understand your dilemma and solution.
We are all here to help the science and as you said, I guess we even prefer to help finding a real cure than just fundamental things.

The aim of the project is "the" problem infact (No no, I don't suggest you to change :p).
Well, I'm not able to say if your solution is a good one or not, if you will have the support of a large batch of volunteers,etc... because this doesn't happen often, then I also prefer get the opinion of my team.

But I'm sure several members will stop crunching on your project because of that. And I guess new members will come ,with the development of your project.

Edit : I didn't get your point when you were saying that you can do a patent, resell it and with the money collected, invest again in new project. Is it that ? Can you explain me a bit more about it.
Thanks
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Message 1528 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 18:07:59 UTC - in response to Message 1527.  
Last modified: 13 Oct 2009, 18:11:00 UTC


But I'm sure several members will stop crunching on your project because of that. And I guess new members will come ,with the development of your project.

Edit : I didn't get your point when you were saying that you can do a patent, resell it and with the money collected, invest again in new project. Is it that ? Can you explain me a bit more about it.
Thanks


We are discussing here the strategy for the project, it's not finally defined yet. We maybe even can make several strategies and let volunteer to vote for them. We really care on what volunteers think, but I really don't know how to develop new drugs without patents. It's possible not to use LLC and make patents for non profits - that's right.

Regarding the second point. For example. We need to completely rewrite code for GPU GROMACS (unfortunately several volunteer computing projects which use GROMACs don't make public the latest GPU GROMACS version with explicit solvent yet - so it's not such an open projects yet) and we need 2-3 professional GPU programmers with knowledge of GROMACs (that's above the requirement of money for our team which should make project the full time job rather than part-time hobby) - in US or EU such programmers will require salary at least 3-5K$ -maybe 3K$ if we can make it as PHD research project for some people, but still this is about 100-150$k annually. If we want to make changes in force fields, in scroing functions, in protein flexibility treatment during docking we'll neeed team of about 20-30 people which corresponds toabout 400-500 K$ anually+100K$ for the office and hardware/softare etc. (very general figures). We can get grants for it of course and we'll sure try to do it. I even don't know if we'll get some patents, but this can be just one of the sources for project financing (as in any institute, like very well known Scripps for example).
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Message 1530 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 18:16:38 UTC

One of alternative options, which we've also discussed was to make project totally commercial and share profits with volunteers according to credits. I've discussed it with russian crunchers and they have rejected this (and we abandoned it as we really are not interested so much in profits etc.), but maybe that discussion had some national specific and some profit sharing (which I actually don't expect soon) can be interesting to volunteers. If volunteers vote against it - we'll forget it.
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Message 1532 - Posted: 13 Oct 2009, 19:51:11 UTC - in response to Message 1530.  

Yeah that's a lot of money... Do you have access to any competent university to support you ?
I guess even with grants it would not be sufficient to run smoothly the project... And you're not even sure to get some, right ?
In fact there are not really that much choice right ?
Even you stay a non for profit entity (But you need grants and even more, what about partnership, donations, sponsorings...? I don't know)
Or you change for a commercial entity. No financial problem for you anymore... but a lot of restrictions/limits.

One of alternative options, which we've also discussed was to make project totally commercial and share profits with volunteers according to credits. I've discussed it with russian crunchers and they have rejected this (and we abandoned it as we really are not interested so much in profits etc.), but maybe that discussion had some national specific and some profit sharing (which I actually don't expect soon) can be interesting to volunteers. If volunteers vote against it - we'll forget it.

I think it will be the same result with l'AF. We do not crunch at all for money.
It is deeply not our behavior. As a team, we cannot accept it. It will be the same for the others teams. Only individual would be ready to do that for money...
But I don't thing it will bring you a lot of volunteers...
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Message 1539 - Posted: 14 Oct 2009, 7:56:08 UTC - in response to Message 1532.  
Last modified: 14 Oct 2009, 9:15:52 UTC

Yeah that's a lot of money... Do you have access to any competent university to support you ?
I guess even with grants it would not be sufficient to run smoothly the project... And you're not even sure to get some, right ?
In fact there are not really that much choice right ?
Even you stay a non for profit entity (But you need grants and even more, what about partnership, donations, sponsorings...? I don't know)
Or you change for a commercial entity. No financial problem for you anymore... but a lot of restrictions/limits.

We have access to couple of universities, to which our team members belong, but still the separate financig for the project is required (like grant) and we'll work also on getting direct support from univerisities.

Financial problem will be in both cases - in case of LLC and in case of non-profit. But in case of LLC we maybe will be more flexible with partnerships and collaborations, but the non-profit will look better for volunteers maybe, or maybe not so important (you decide), so this choice we want to base on discussions like this.
Everything we're doing we want to do together with our volunteers. If we are going to make some pharma company with great technologies and exceptional new drugs for cancer and several age-related diseases, then we'll do it only on the basis of support from big numbers of volunteers, which want to contribute to this goal.




I think it will be the same result with l'AF. We do not crunch at all for money.
It is deeply not our behavior. As a team, we cannot accept it. It will be the same for the others teams. Only individual would be ready to do that for money...
But I don't thing it will bring you a lot of volunteers...


Ok, so then if nobody is interested in this then we won't use this strategy.
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