Reports indicate that GlaxoSmithKline is all set to go public with data regarding more than 13,500 structures of possible drugs against malaria, along with associated pharmacological data.
According to a report in Nature News, the move marks the first large-scale public release of such structures by a pharmaceutical company, and it could lead to others following suite.
GSK's move marks the latest development in a trend towards greater access to industry compound libraries - access that was unheard of just a few years ago.
Over the past decade, new public-private partnerships such as the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) have forged deals with drug firms to give them privileged access to the companies' compound libraries.
The GSK move takes this a step further by opening up access to all academic scientists and other companies.
"It's a good step," said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, head of the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines at Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), who says he hopes companies will open their libraries for other diseases.
The structures were identified as inhibiting the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in a screen of the company's 2-million-compound library - a process that took five scientists at Tres Cantos around one year to complete.
"The size of the screening is not earth-shattering news," said Timothy Wells, chief scientific officer of MMV.
What is news, according to Wells, is the public-domain aspect.
"It's something everybody in pharma has talked about doing, and everybody seems to have a plan to do it some time in the future, but GSK are the first to really step into the breach and actually do it," he said.
Instead of researchers relying on their own small, isolated and fragmented efforts, the field can now work off and build a shared data set.
It should also reduce duplication.
"We often have academics coming to us and saying we have found a new structure, and we tell them that we already have ten of those," said Wells. "Now all of that data will be in public databases," he added.
Janet Morgan, a spokesperson for GSK, said that the company does not intend to host the database of the structures itself, but is under discussions with one or more existing databases accessible to scientists.
GSK may screen and publish structures for other neglected diseases for which assays are available.
"We'll look at this on a case-by-case basis," Morgan said.