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Now we have open source for clinical trials, too

Open source is helping to fuel clinical drug trials, but how much is open to debate.

I mentioned the other day that I've been hearing about scads of new open-source projects, commercial and otherwise, but I had not yet heard of OpenClinica, which TMCnet profiles today.

Since its debut in 2005, OpenClinica [developed by Akaza Research] has quickly become the most popular open source clinical trials software in the world. Akaza Research previously announced that it had experienced 2,000 OpenClinica downloads as of August 2006. Today's announcement represents a growth of 700 percent since that time....Akaza Research takes the position that its professional open source approach is key to helping to facilitate widespread adoption.

A total of 16,000 downloads would not normally qualify as "widespread," but then, OpenClinica doesn't exactly have widespread appeal, given its focus on clinical drug trials. This isn't to denigrate its utility, as the pharmaceutical companies allegedly using it may find tremendous value in an open-source solution for clinical trials.

For me, the real question is what benefits beyond free distribution Akaza is mining from its OpenClinica project. The project (hosted on Sourceforge) apparently receives few updates, with limited activity around the project, at least on Sourceforge. Is there more to the project than initially meets the eye?