We get pretty excited around these parts at the prospects for open source biotechnology (and have even mused about what open source nanotechnology might look like), so it's good to see another field begin to embrace the open source philosophy. ZINC -- which, in the free software tradition of recursive acronyms, stands for ZINC Is Not Commercial -- is a free database of compounds for "virtual screening." That is, ZINC provides 3D models of chemical compounds in a standard "docking" format used in chemistry and biochemistry software, allowing researchers to assemble and test new chemical compositions on their computers. While useful across chemistry-related disciplines, this is particularly important for drug discovery and development -- and could be of great value to biochemistry and pharmaceutical researchers in the developing world.
ZINC was created by Brian K. Shoichet and John J. Irwin, faculty at the pharmaceutical chemistry department of UC San Francisco, and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Shoichet and Irwin announced the opening of the project late last year in an article published in the journal of the American Chemical Society.
ZINC encourages users to upload information about chemical compounds not currently in the database (which already contains 2.7 million entries). Unlike BioForge, ZINC does not explicitly adopt free/open source software as a model; nonetheless, they do not try to extend copyright over submitted compounds, and emphasize both on the site and in their descriptive paper the free and open access elements of the project.
(Via Open Access News)