Needed: a quantum leap  pg. 4

Diversify research support

Innovation also must extend to the pursuit of a diverse portfolio of research support.

Toward that end, Vanderbilt Medical Center has created a program focused on helping investigators find the support that they need. Many of these foundations “have a strong interest in developing the careers of junior faculty members, coupled with a mission to fund basic, translational and clinical research,” says Vanderbilt’s director of Development for Biomedical Research, Julie Koh, Ph.D.

Julie Koh, Ph.D., director of Development for Biomedical Research
Photo by Joe Howell
For example, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) recently created 70 Early Career Scientist positions as an investment for the future. The institute also is granting new funds through its newly established Collaborative Innovator Award project. Here the principal investigator (PI) must be an HHMI researcher, but the research team must include others from outside his or her discipline, from outside the institute or even from outside the United States.

Says Jack Dixon, Ph.D., HHMI’s chief scientific officer and former dean for Scientific Affairs at the University of California, San Diego: “The strategy is to develop teams of people to tackle important problems that couldn’t be tackled as effectively by an individual laboratory. It’s something of an experiment for us.”

Grassroots movements like ACT-UP, which promotes AIDS research, and private foundations like the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which supports research and drug development, are among the increasingly powerful funders of biomedical research.

The recently formed Stand Up to Cancer, which raised more than $100 million during a televised celebrity fundraising event last fall, directs its donations to “interdisciplinary, multi-institutional translational and clinical research Dream Teams” in order to speed progress and “achieve a paradigm shift in clinical cancer research,” according to its Web site,

Similarly, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has used a “pay-for-results” funding model that, in the words of TIME Magazine’s Bill Saporito, “has more to do with Silicon Valley than Big Pharma.”

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