Philanthropists Make Miracles Happen

  • | Jan 27 2017 |

You might be surprised to learn that only one percent of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health [NIH] is awarded to young researchers. In contrast, ACGT uses half of its funding for clinical trials and half of its funding goes to young scientists exploring revolutionary approaches to cancer treatment.

We are second to none in our admiration for the NIH, the world’s largest source of funding for medical research; however our ACGT Research Fellows concur with the general consensus that the red tape can be crippling and good research goes begging for support.

grant_fundingTo make matters worse, public funding is a classic chicken and egg model: researchers have to prove their hypotheses before they are considered for NIH grants, but where will they find the financing to compile that data? Universities will fund a study for just so long before they too need an infusion of capital.

As a result, great minds are increasingly hesitant to commit to research and the brain drain will ultimately cost lives. Too many young scientists also face the denial of tenure if they cannot publish. Yet discovery laboratory research, which ACGT has emphasized from day one, lays the groundwork for most medical breakthroughs and the foundation for clinical trials.

A recent article in Philanthropy Magazine by Karl Zinsmeister, founder of the Almanac of American Philanthropy, endorsed the importance of private giving to ensure new forms of medicine. We couldn’t agree more. Discovery research has led to more innovative and effective treatments for cancer, and the need for funding is greater every day.

WINTER17-cover-166x215-v2Zinsmeister also pointed out that donor-funded scientists produce high-impact papers at a much greater rate than similarly accomplished NIH-funded researchers, as reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research, because “philanthropy tolerates early failure, rewards long-term success and gives its appointees great freedom to experiment.”

Philanthropists have funded the most important medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, for example:

  • Immigrant physician George Papanicolaou, in 1928, sponsored the development of the lifesaving test for cervical cancer, despite the disdain by the medical establishment.
  • The John Hartford Foundation, created from the A&P supermarket fortune, was the leading funder of biomedical research from the 1950s to the 1970s
  • And let us not forget the foundation of the Sloan Kettering Institute in 1956 by inventor Charles Kettering.

The trend continues in this millennium.

  • Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen created a new lab with an initial $100 million gift to better understand how living cells relate to each other.
    Allen’s compatriot, Bill Gates, has given millions to combat worldwide disease.
  • Internet entrepreneur Sean Parker donated $250 million from his Facebook proceeds to back cancer immunology. Parker demanded collaboration between six top cancer centers to improve the odds of success. ACGT’s funded scientists lead a third of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy centers.
  • Costco’s Sol Price funded research at Caltech to sequence DNA, which made the mapping of the human genome, and precision medicine, possible.
    Michael Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation to support risk-taking research to achieve results sooner than later, and that success inspired FasterCures, to accelerate progress through greater efficiency.

Ratings for charitable organizations make it possible to ensure greater odds for a good return on investment. Each donation to Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy goes directly to research because a separate fund supports administrative expenses. In contrast, university labs are burdened by overhead and onerous paperwork. Our prestigious Scientific Advisory Council makes certain that grants are awarded to the most promising researchers in North America, with few strings attached other than the dedication to results and proper reporting on progress. It is the generosity of ACGT donors that allow us all to truly fund miracles.

Giving, in the right way, makes miracles happen. Read more at Philanthropy Roundtable.