The Medpedia Project, a collaborative effort to create the world’s most authoritative and largest on-line clearing-house for information about health, medicine and the body, will officially launch as a free public web site at the end of the year, but a preview site became available yesterday (July 24).

Medpedia is funded and managed by San Francisco-based technology greenhouse Ooga Labs and supported by Harvard Medical School, Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, the University of Michigan Medical School and dozens of health organizations worldwide.

“In recent years, we have witnessed the benefit that a website like Wikipedia can have on all knowledge. With ongoing experimentation and guidance from the medical community, Medpedia could provide a similar benefit to the world in the specialized area of health and medicine,” said James Currier, Medpedia’s founder and chairman.

“It’s feeling inevitable that all the medical and health information will be available worldwide at no charge via an open, collaborative platform like Medpedia,” said Dr Linda Hawes Clever, clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical School. She added that Medpedia “will also serve as an important place for medical professionals to get credit and become known for their specialties.”

Medpedia is now calling for qualified MDs, biomedical research PhDs and clinicians around the world to apply to become Editors of Content. The Editors will create and interlink web pages for the more than 30,000 known diseases and conditions, over 10,000 drugs prescribed each year, thousands of medical procedures performed and millions of medical facilities around the world. The wbsite’s main topic pages will be written in language the general public can easily understand, and each will also have a “Technical” page for professionals to discuss the same topic in more clinical and scientific language. Medpedia will constantly improve in real time, keeping up to date with discoveries in health and medicine, say spokesmen for the project.

Anyone will be free to reuse the Medpedia content for non-commercial reasons as long as there is a link back to Medpedia.com. In the future, in order to cover operating costs, non-invasive, text-based advertising will be shown on the website through third-party ad networks. A link will be provided to users asking them to “Flag Inappropriate Ads.” Such flagged ads will be reviewed by Editors and potentially prevented from being shown on Medpedia in the future.

Dr Anthony Komaroff, Professor of Medicine at Harvard and editor-in-chief of its health publications division, believes that Medpedia “has the potential to become a vital tool for scientists, researchers and educators, as well as for the general public across the globe, providing easy access to the latest and best information on medicine.”

“Making high-quality, unbiased medical information freely available to everyone via a collaborative, open and constantly evolving website has the potential to dramatically impact both public and individual health,” added Dr Henry Lowe, senior associate dean for information resources and technology at Stanford.

Other contributors to Medpedia include the American College of Physicians (ACP), the Oxford Health Alliance (OxHA.org), the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies, (FOCIS) and the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA). Many groups will contribute seed content free of copyright restrictions, while Harvard will publish content to uneditable areas that members of its faculty have created as part of a Medical School-wide effort. The Project is also receiving content and cooperation from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA).