There are a ton of social networks out there nowadays, but how many of them are really useful?

I mean really useful. Useful in the sense of helping us to get our job done or making our lives easier.

Clearly, the vast majority of the social networks that we use on a day-to-day basis are little more than time sinks. Myspace and Facebooks are prime examples of this.

Twitter? Even worse.

The question remains then, how can we use the power of social networking to make our lives easier? How can we harness it to help us better do our jobs and manage our free time?

The company that I am currently involved in, Collaborative Drug Discovery, is trying to answer those questions, at least for the domain of drug discovery.

We take data from academic chemistry labs all over the world, some of it sitting in dusty old lab notebooks, forgotten for years; and feed it into our system. This data can then be shared with all of the other researchers in the system.

Suddenly all of these researchers have access to exponentially more data then they had before, as well as the means to search and explore it.

Take just a minute and imagine the possibilities of that.

As an example, say a researcher in Poland finds a chemical that slows the growth of a certain type of cancer. They put it into the CDD system and then find 10 other similar chemicals that have already been studied by researchers from all over the world. If one of those chemicals has already been tested in humans and proven safe for other uses, the researcher might be able to head directly to human testing for effectiveness against the cancer that she found it worked against. This is a stage in the drug discovery process that usually takes many years and hundreds of millions of dollars to get to. We've just routed around it, all thanks to the power of social networking and data sharing.

Millions of dollars and years of people's lives were saves

And just possibly, and most importantly, hundreds of lives might have been saved in the process.

That's our vision, and I'm excited to be a part of it.