List of Campaigns to Fund Drug Development

List of Campaigns to Fund Drug Development
Source: © Nenov Brothers -

In the near-term, science crowdfunding is likely to be most successful in supporting health-related research.  People tend to perceive a direct interest in medical advancements to a greater extent than for other types of creative work supported by donation-based crowdfunding (since new therapies might ultimately save their life or that of their loved ones).  In fact, health organizations, educational organizations, and foundations – the three most likely hosts of donation-supported medical research – received 30% of the overall $298 billion in charitable contributions made by Americans in 2011 (that is, $89.5 billion).

It’s no surprise, then, that medicine-specific portals are dominating the embryonic research crowdfunding ecosystem.  While the major focus at the moment is on cancer research (to some extent mirroring donor priorities in offline fundraising), the potential to fund drug development for other types of diseases is strong.  New crowdfunding portals like Consano, Cancer Research UK’s My Projects, and StartACure all focus on cancer research, and the iCancer campaign, which got its start on Indiegogo, succeeded in raising over $2 million to fund a clinical trial to test a viral therapy against neuroendocrine cancer (a rare cancer).

As research crowdfunding grows, it can get difficult to keep track of all the projects.  That’s why I’ve compiled a list of active (as of September 23, 2013) crowdfunding campaigns that aim to fund research at some stage of the drug development pipeline.  I’ve only included campaigns that are more than 10% funded (since these are the most likely to succeed, and for which additional contributions would likely have the greatest impact), and have excluded online fundraising models (like Project Violet) that don’t directly fund a clearly defined project or those (like Cancer Research UK’s) where the campaign timelines are open-ended.

Do let me know if I’m missing any campaigns, and I’ll update the table.

List of Active Crowdfunding Campaigns Relating to Drug Development
                      (As of September 23, 2013)
Campaign Title Amount Raised %Funded Days Left
Testosterone Therapy for Prostate Cancer: Feeling Better while Defeating Cancer $2,775 11% 67
Monosomy 7- cancer that can start before we are born… $665 13% 71
Mitochondrial Gene Therapy $1,105 16% 66
Short of Breath: Increasing Available Lungs for Transplant $9,529 19% 38
Can we use 3-D printing to engineer organs affordably? $580 19% 15
I am a little mouse and I want to live longer! $4,600 31% 27
Targeting Fusion Genes in Esophageal Cancer $1,820 36% 53
Cure Black Bone Disease $37,699 38% 24
Determining Genetic Risk of Ovarian Cancer $10,904 44% 38
Halting Tumor Cells from Spreading by Blocking ‘Hostile Mergers’ $9,634 49% 33
Can we treat sepsis? $885 49% 6
Can anle138b delay the onset of genetic prion disease? $12,413 155% 1


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UPDATE: Added “Can anle138b delay the onset of genetic prion disease,” September 25, 2013. h/t @eperlste

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The Four Models of Crowdfunding and Healthcare R&D

The Four Models of Crowdfunding and Healthcare R&D
Source: © Anterovium -

I have a short piece in UniverCellMarket‘s Spotlight feature this week that looks at how the four approaches to crowdfunding – donation-based, rewards-based, lending-based, and equity-based – can be used to finance research and development in the healthcare sector.  The rewards-based model is particularly interesting in that it lends itself to financing the development of medical devices that cater to the needs of the quantified self and personalized medicine movements.  Here’s an excerpt:

Crowdfunding websites raised $2.7 billion globally in 2012 and are projected to raise $5.1 billion in 2013, a figure that is certain to grow in the coming years as public awareness of crowdfunding increases.  So how might this new approach to fundraising help to accelerate research and development in healthcare and medicine?

In general terms, crowdfunding can be defined as fundraising that aims to support a specific project or enterprise by collecting relatively small financial commitments from a large number of donors.  Different forms of crowdfunding, however, are likely to be relevant to medical research in different ways, some more obvious than others.  In this article, I provide a brief overview of the four types of crowdfunding and how these might be used in a health research setting.

You can read the rest here.

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Why Universities Should Crowdfund Research

Why Universities Should Crowdfund Research
Source: © zimmytws -

In a recent blog post, I outlined three approaches to crowdfunding scientific research.  First is the Stand-Alone Project model, in which researchers start a campaign to fund a specific research project on an established general-purpose crowdfunding portal like Indiegogo, RocketHub, or, in Canada, FundRazr.

The second approach is the Specialty Portal model, in which researchers use a crowdfunding portal that is exclusively dedicated to scientific research.  Microryza is the best known example of the science-specific portal, but even more narrowly focused portals – like Consano, which focuses on medical research – may become the norm.  Some general crowdfunding sites are also creating dedicated sub-portals for scientific research.  RocketHub, for example, lists “Science” as one of its primary categories, and has partnered with the #SciFund Challenge and Popular Science’s #Crowdgrant Challenge to help fund scientific research.

The final approach is the Institutional Portal model, in which existing research institutions create their own crowdfunding websites to raise money for projects vetted by or affiliated with the institution.  Cancer Research UK, for example, which is a leading medical research charity, has been raising additional funds for its existing grantees through its own crowdfunding site: My Projects.

While other non-profits and NGOs may be able to take advantage of this crowdfunding model, universities are particularly well suited to using this approach for several reasons.

      1. Universities’ reputations can lend credibility to affiliated researchers’ projects and therefore increase the perceived quality of the project in the eyes of potential donors.  Indeed, institutions with national or global brands (e.g., Harvard or Stanford) are well positioned to appeal to a global pool of potential donors.  The fact that donations flow through the university, moreover, provides some assurance to potential donors that any funds raised will be managed appropriately and actually end up being spent on executing the proposed research project.
      1. Most universities have existing fundraising operations into which an institutional crowdfunding website could easily be integrated.  Unlike other organizations like government research funding bodies, university development offices could begin crowdfunding research under their existing mandates.
      1. Universities have an existing donor base – alumni – that are at least in part motivated by an intrinsic appreciation of the pursuit of knowledge and by institutional loyalty.  This means that university crowdfunding websites may not need to depend on incentives or donors’ self-interest as much as other crowdfunding portals, which may allow them to raise significant funds for research that may be valuable but may not personally impact donors’ lives.
      1. Finally, researchers themselves are more likely to use crowdfunding to support their work if they feel that the endeavor is likely to be supported by university administrators – or at least that it won’t be held against them.  If projects appear on their employers’ own portal, researchers are likely to perceive crowdfunding as a lower risk project than they do today.  Indeed, as universities adopt institutional crowdfunding, administrators may begin to actively encourage researchers to participate both as a way of bringing in additional resources but, perhaps more importantly, also as an important new channel for alumni engagement and university outreach.

The good news is that at least a few universities are starting to see the logic behind the Institutional Portal model.  As Sarah Kessler reported this week, a number of schools, including Arizona State, the University of Virginia, the University of Vermont, and, most recently, Georgia Tech, are piloting their own crowdfunding websites.  While the exact shape that university crowdfunding will take is uncertain, the logic of the Institutional Portal model as a means of crowdfunding research is likely to lead to a proliferation of university-backed portals in the next few years.

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