Expert Pitch

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss How to Help Free Market Fight Coronavirus

New Brunswick, N.J. (March 25, 2020) – Stephen K. Burley, director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank headquartered at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, is available for interviews on how to help the free market fight the coronavirus. His viewpoint is published in the journal Nature.

“Had drug hunters been offered appropriate incentives in the mid-2000s, there would probably be a drug available for COVID-19 today,” wrote Burley, a University Professor and Henry Rutgers Chair who also directs the Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine.

The 3D structure of a key enzyme in the new coronavirus was recently made publicly available in the Protein Data Bank archive. Related images, videos and resources are available at the RCSB Protein Data Bank website.

“During the SARS outbreak, I was confident that drug companies would build on open-access data and produce anti-SARS drugs,” Burley wrote. “None was forthcoming. I was similarly optimistic in the wake of the MERS epidemic a decade later. Again, I was disappointed. Economists call this a failure of the free market. With no clear prospect of income from investment in drugs for future epidemics, most companies choose to focus on potential blockbusters…. I call on world leaders to commit to introducing a new regulatory category of broad-spectrum drugs that can be held in reserve against future disease outbreaks, with appropriate criteria for demonstrating safety and efficacy…. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that investment of a few hundred million dollars after the SARS epidemic might have averted thousands of COVID-19 deaths, and financial losses predicted to exceed more than US$1 trillion worldwide. It is time for governments, industry and NGOs to confront the failure of the free market in emergency medicines head-on.”

The Protein Data Bank archive houses more than 160,000 3D structures for proteins, DNA and RNA that are freely available worldwide. The archive is jointly managed by the Worldwide Protein Data Bank partnership, involving data centers in the United States, Europe and Asia. U.S. operations are led by the RCSB Protein Data Bank at Rutgers, the University of California, San Diego-San Diego Supercomputer Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

Here’s a link to Burley’s viewpoint: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00888-7

To interview Burley, contact Christine Zardecki, deputy director of the RCSB Protein Data Bank, at [email protected]

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Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Neal Buccino at [email protected]

ABOUT RUTGERS—NEW BRUNSWICK
Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally acclaimed faculty, 12 degree-granting schools and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse student body.




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