Is Crowdfunding a Good Option for Your Research?

Mendeley

By: Nick Dragojlovic, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia

Picture this… It’s 8am. You take your first sip of coffee, ready to start your day. You check your email and…

You find out your latest grant application didn’t get funded. Bummer.

You give it a couple of days to get over the feeling of rejection, and then start working on your next application. Rinse and repeat until you either: 1) land the grant that will keep your research program going, or 2) run out of funding and have to leave academia.

You tell yourself that in an era of budget austerity, this is just what a researcher’s life entails.

Then, in a flight of fancy, you image that maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. Maybe you could crowdfund your next research project and show the narrow-minded review committees you were right. After all, if glowing plants raised half a million dollars, you could raise $10,000 to run your study. No?

Well, maybe.

——————-

Crowdfunding can be a viable option to obtain research funds, but it’s hard work and it’s not a cash machine. So if you’re thinking about crowdfunding one of your research projects, use this Q&A to help you decide whether it’s worth the effort.

Q: How much money can I raise through crowdfunding?

A: Like so much in life, it depends.

Based on a range of estimates, the vast majority of research crowdfunding campaigns to date have raised $7,000 or less.

Some research teams, however, have managed to raise a whole lot more. If you happen to be working on Ebola during a panic-inducing epidemic, you can raise a hundred thousand dollars in short order. In fact, medical research campaigns seem to be able to raise significantly more than the average figures. A study published in Drug Discovery Today, for example, found that 97 crowdfunding campaigns focused on cancer research raised an average of about $45,500 each.

The larger amounts raised by many medical research projects are in large part due to alliances between researchers and existing medical research foundations, who are typically much better placed to raise money. The Tisch MS Center, for example, recently raised over $300,000 on Indiegogo to help fund a Phase I clinical trial of a stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis. And in perhaps the most impressive example to date, a coalition of foundations have raised over $2 million to support a Phase I trial for Abeona Therapeutics’ experimental gene therapy for Sanfillipo Syndrome.

Long story short, the amount you can plausibly raise through crowdfunding will depend on how appealing your project is to potential donors and on how big of an audience you have at your disposal, but will most likely be under $10,000.

Q: What can I do to increase my chances of success?

A: Build an audience.

Fundraising takes a lot of work. Ultimately, you’ll only attract sufficient donations if you actually ask a lot of people for money. This means you’ll have to go beyond your own personal network, and the single most important thing you can do to make that easier is to invest in building a personal following long before you even think about launching a crowdfunding campaign.

Thankfully, social media makes this possible even if you don’t get invited to appear on TV on a regular basis. In fact, building up a sizeable online audience could be worth tens of thousands of crowdfunding dollars a year. Twitter, email, and the number of media contacts fundraisers made, for example, were the three key drivers of donations in the #SciFund Challenge campaigns. In fact, taken together, Facebook (38%) and Twitter (12%) drove half of the total traffic to Hubbub, a crowdfunding service provider that focuses on higher education and non-profits. So you really need to build your online network if you’re going to crowdfund.

One thing to keep in mind is that running even a small crowdfunding campaign can help to build your audience, and that the true value of your audience goes way beyond the money you raise in your first campaign. Not only can you go back to your donors in subsequent crowdfunding campaigns, but if you keep engaging with your new followers, they will also follow you over the course of your career, and could potentially connect you to new collaborators, high-net-worth philanthropists, and investors years down the line.

Q: Which crowdfunding platform should I use?

A: It probably doesn’t matter much.

If you’ve built a large following before launching a campaign (you have, haven’t you?), then the choice of crowdfunding platform is less important than you might think, since you’ll be driving most donors to the fundraising page yourself. That said, there are a range of options.

Most smaller projects use one of the niche research-focused portals. Some of these have geographic limitations about where project creators can be based, and you’ll want to check with your university to make sure that your campaign complies with institutional policies. Be warned that most of these sites also take a percentage of any money donated (usually between 5% and 10%) as a commission.

An alternative might be to use your university’s own crowdfunding portal. More and more universities are creating their own crowdfunding sites for faculty, staff, students, and alumni to use, and they typically do not take a cut of the donations. In addition, the service providers used by many of these universities, such as Hubbub, offer in-person training and marketing advice for prospective fundraisers. If your university doesn’t have its own platform, you might also consider Hubbub’s open crowdfunding site, which doesn’t take any commissions.

Finally, a new set of online fundraising platforms for researchers are aiming to move beyond the traditional campaign-centered crowdfunding model, and to fund researchers instead of research projects. If you’re interested in doing video-based science outreach and getting viewers to “sponsor” you, you can try Thinkable, and if you’re thinking about fundraising to support your medical research lab over the long-term, you might want to check out LabCures.

Ultimately, though, the choice of platform is not as important as actually starting to talk to the public about your research and building a community of supporters.

Q:  So should I try to crowdfund my research?

A: Yes, if the conditions are right.

For most researchers (i.e., if you’re not already a super-star with a huge media presence), crowdfunding might make sense if you meet any or all of these three criteria:

  • You have an experiment that you could do for under $10,000, and data from this experiment could help you to attract funding from other sources.
  • You have a very marketable topic and/or you have the backing of a foundation or other group with an existing network of donors and supporters.
  • You want to build your online network as a long-term investment – i.e., it’s not about the money, but crowdfunding can provide the impetus for you to put in the work necessary to build your network.

And if you’re still not sure, you can always ask the crowd.

What do you think? Have you looked to crowdfunding to enable your research, or are thinking about putting together your first campaign? Join the conversation on our Mendeley Crowdfunding Group or tweet @NickDragojlovic

Nick Dragojlovic is a Vancouver-based science communication researcher passionate about how crowdfunding can be used to accelerate scientific research and biomedical innovation. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and writes about crowdfunding scientific research at Funded Science.

Crowdfunding brings clubfoot treatment to children in the developing world

 

miraclefeet-baby

This Mendeley guest post talks about how a crowdfunding campaign is bringing an innovative research design from Stanford University to children in developing countries struggling with clubfoot.

By Janeen B. Gingrich, MSW, Associate Director of Philanthropy, miraclefeet

When I first heard about miraclefeet and clubfoot, I felt compelled to get involved. I had done a lot of work towards ending social problems in the US, many of which felt unsolvable, and I had seen untreated clubfoot growing up in Thailand. But now that I was a new mom, this issue really resonated with me even more. Why? Because untreated clubfoot is a problem that can be solved. Once you start talking to more people about it, you wouldn’t believe how common it is. Clubfoot affects one out of every 750 children worldwide, making it one of the most common birth defects in the world. Yet it is one most people might not even be aware of.  In the US, Europe and the UK, it is usually detected in utero and treated without surgery shortly after birth, allowing the child to live a healthy, active lifestyle. In fact, Mia Hamm, Kristi Yamaguchi, Steven Gerrard and Troy Aikman – all very successful athletes – were born with clubfoot and received proper treatment.

alan before after

In contrast, 80% of children born with clubfoot in the rest of the world have no access to treatment. A treatment that, from start to finish, costs an average of $250 total.

Unfortunately, children, and then of course, adults, living with untreated clubfoot face incredible hurdles their whole lives. Often they are shunned from society – left alone and hidden away as youngsters because the family is ashamed. Because walking is so difficult, they are usually unable to attend school. These children are subject to higher risk of neglect, poverty, physical and sexual abuse.  They might end up begging or working unsafe jobs and facing a life of discrimination and pain. Below is a photo of a young father in India who lives with untreated clubfoot (on left) and his son Pradeep, who was also born with clubfoot, but is being treated in a miraclefeet-supported clinic.

walking with pradeep

The miraclefeet brace is a low-cost ($20) foot abduction brace developed at the Stanford d.school through the Design for Extreme Affordability course, in collaboration with miraclefeet, Clarks Shoes and Suncast, to treat clubfoot using the non-surgical Ponseti method. Brace compliance is the most important variable in achieving a good treatment outcome: corrected feet and the ability to walk, run and play as any child should be able to.

The lightweight, child-friendly design includes easy-on, easy-off accessibility through detachable shoes and built-in stability for standing and walking.

Bracing has been one of the biggest hurdles in scaling up Ponseti treatment globally.  Having an off-the-shelf, inexpensive foot abduction brace keeps the cost of treatment low. Over a ten-year period, this brace could enable as many as 1.6 million children to live active  and productive lives for a relatively small investment. 

You can check out and support the miraclefeet campaign here If you have any experience of using crowdfunding for research or are interested in the subject, make sure to join the discussion in our Mendeley Crowdfunding Group

Improving Long-term Healthcare with Crowdfunded Community Partnership

 

Kristen and Susan

Collaboration and community are at the heart of bringing research to life in ways that make a real difference to people’s lives, specially when it comes to advances in healthcare. So this time we give a shout out to an interesting crowdfunding project that was launched yesterday to try and do just that:

By Chaitenya Razdan, Co-Founder and CEO, Care + Wear

Everyone has had a close friend or family member undergo some type of medical treatment and witnessed just how taxing it is; lives are completely altered for both the patient and their caretakers. Having experienced it first hand, Susan, Caroline and I combined our backgrounds to create a functional and fashionable treatment accessory that provides protection while increasing comfort during treatment.  We began with a simple concept for patients with PICC lines – the Band.

Through the development of the Band, Care + Wear was born.

PICC lines (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters) are used to administer long-term intravenous medications like chemotherapy, IV antibiotics, and TPN nutrition. Today, over 6 million are inserted annually and this number is growing quickly.

We knew that if we were going to reach as many patients as possible we would need to inspire a community effort.   First, we put together an experienced advisory board consisting of doctors, nurses, strategic growth and marketing professionals and successful entrepreneurs who have each dedicated countless hours to helping build Care + Wear. Then, we reached out to the industry’s leading foundations and now proudly call the American Cancer Society, F Cancer and the Tyler Robinson Foundation partners.

We have made significant progress since the Band was developed this Spring thanks to our advisors, partner foundations and most importantly the patients.  We’ve heard countless stories of how the Band would have, and could improve a patient’s journey through long-term medical care.  We are more inspired to bring our dream to life every day.

But in order to bring the Band to life, we needed a platform to reach more patients around the country, their friends and family, caretakers, nurses, doctors and colleagues and to spread the word. We not only want people to know that there is a product out there but also want to raise awareness for the community as a whole.

Crowdfunding gives Care + Wear an avenue to spread awareness to those living with PICC lines and their own communities. We have been overwhelmed with the excitement around the Band and are looking forward to making a difference.

Today we are proud to announce the official launch of Care + Wear. With cutting-edge designs and features, we hope to be able to help comfort, protect and inspire patients with fashionable medical accessories that also help support our foundation partners.

All the funds pledged will help us manufacture and distribute the first Bands to hospitals and patients, with a portion being donated to our foundation partners. Visit our Indiegogo campaign page to support us!

Receiving long-term medical treatments is an arduous process that often can be debilitating and leave you weak and without hope. It’s about time that we did something to help patients and their families. So join us, this is only the beginning.

If you’re interested in the subject, make sure to join our Crowdfunding Group on Mendeley and let us know what you think!

Crowdfunding Innovative Water Treatment Research

Community Water Project 2Mendeley is proud to help spread the word about how research makes a positive impact in people’s lives, which is why we were really happy to work more closely with Elsevier in Research4Life. At its core, research is about making the world a better place, and technology is a  key way of enabling this. As part of our series of guest blog posts highlighting interesting ways in which that happens, this time we bring you the story of Jay, Viv and Kirsten, 3 young researchers from the University of Southern California, who have used crowdfunding to take their life-saving solution to communities in Rwanda.

By Jay Todd Max, co-founder of the Community Water Project

Next month, my research team and I are flying to Rwanda to build innovative water treatment systems we have been designing for the past three years. While we were earning our Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Engineering at the University of Southern California, Viv Pitter, Kirsten Rice and I were in the USC labs, researching into different innovative water treatment methods. The result is that we have created a new model of water treatment systems, tailored specifically to the needs and resources of rural communities in developing countries. This September we will make those designs a reality.

Having access to clean water is obviously a huge issue for millions of people around the world. The communities that we are targeting are ones who have access to dirty water, but no means of cleaning it. Typically these are rural communities that also do not have access to sophisticated water treatment technologies and typically do not have the technical know-how for maintaining complex water treatment systems. Our design is incredibly low-tech and uses only the natural resources found locally in these communities. It is essentially a large concrete chamber filled with gravel and sand. It traps the dirt and uses the naturally occurring micro-organisms to break down and remove all of the dangerous contaminants. Because the materials are local and there are no moving parts, the system is incredibly easy to maintain and operate.

 

Community Water Project 1

But there’s more. Many projects fail for social/cultural reasons rather than purely technical ones. Because of this, our implementation strategy diverges from usual aid models. Typically, when aid groups enter a community, they prescribe a specific technology that they have shipped from far away, install it without much community buy-in, and then leave, patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately, the majority of these projects fall out of use and into disrepair within the first 5 years. Our implementation strategy, however, avoids this fate in two main ways. Firstly, our primary focus is on community engagement and buy-in. After all, it is the people we are interested in helping. The village leaders of Bwana, Rwanda are already eager to help make their new water systems a reality. Secondly, the systems will be monetized. The village leaders are in the process of selecting individuals from within the community who will become the owner/operators of these systems. They will charge a small fee for each container of water that gets dispensed. This money will go toward the maintenance and repair of the system, and will also act as compensation for the owner’s work. Because the owners are getting paid for their work, there will always be someone in charge of keeping the systems in operating condition.

We believe that our design, combined with our implementation strategy, have the potential to dramatically improve the success and sustainability of water projects around the world. Our model will not be validated, however, unless we take the first step of building the first ones in Rwanda this September. That is why it has been so helpful these past few weeks when donations have come from all over to raise more than $15,000 of our $20,000 fundraising goal on IndieGoGo. All of the communities that have supported the IndieGoGo campaign by sharing the link and by donating are really enabling us to prove out our water treatment concept. They are making it possible to do so much good for the community in Rwanda and possibly for water projects around the world. It really is a case of whole communities coming together to help other whole communities. It’s all made possible by crowd-sourcing funds, and it’s all for the purpose of proving out research that will improve people’s lives. If you’d like to help support the campaign or receive updates on the project’s progress, be sure to visit our campaign page!

Do you have your own stories of using crowdfunding or other social media technologies and platforms to advance your research? Join the discussion on our Crowdfunding Group on Mendeley or leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Crowdfunding to develop healthcare matching technology

Utilize health

A technology platform is helping to match paraplegic patients and those with neurological disabilities with the best healthcare providers available. They now want to use crowdfunding to develop this service even further, and their Indiegogo campaign has already reached over half of their initial $60,000 goal. Here’s their story, which began over 10 years ago…

By Jessica Harthcock, Founder and CEO of Utilize Health

I was 17 when I was paralyzed practicing gymnastics with the goal of bettering my skills for the springboard diving team. From the beginning, my prognosis was very grim; doctors said I would never regain function. This was certainly not what I thought my life would look like at age 17. My family and I wanted options – we wanted a treatment or therapy we could TRY. So for the next several years, my family and I traveled in search of highly specialized rehabilitation treatments. We went everywhere – Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt, facilities in Chicago, Miami and Louisville. I tried anything and everything I could get my hands (or legs) on. I tried Lokomat therapy, e-stem, underwater treadmill training, vestibular therapy, hippo therapy (and the list goes on). After several years of hard work, I learned to walk again. Today, I still don’t have sensation below T3, but I walk by sight (and with the help of my service dog, Ozzie). It’s been a journey, one that’s never really over.

Ozzie 2

This experience has taught me a lot about myself, but also about the gaps in the healthcare system. It was extremely difficult to learn about all of the existing and new treatments. Googling only gets one so far. Once I found a treatment or therapy I wanted to try, no one could tell me where to go to get it. Locating a facility with a particular therapy sometimes took months. After experiencing difficulties in finding resources and therapies, I knew there had to be an easier way, so I vowed to create a tool that could help other patients find the resources they needed without wasting time, energy and financial resources. Thus, Utilize Health was born.

Utilize Health is a platform that matches patients with neurological disabilities to the therapies and facilities they need to maximize their potential for recovery. Think OpenTable or Hotels.com, but for patients and facilities/therapies.

My husband and I started the company in May 2013. We were accepted into a top-ranked business accelerator program called Jumpstart Foundry. Through the program, we developed the idea into a sustainable business.

Ozzie 1

In December of 2013, Utilize Health was very fortunate to unexpectedly receive national press from USA Today. Patients, families, facilities and equipment manufacturers all started reaching out to see if they could use our service. But there was a BIG problem… the website didn’t exist yet. We were in the process of raising funds to build the web application.

I lost sleep… a lot of sleep. What do we do? People need this and they need it NOW. Patients don’t want to wait. Every email, phone call, and social media request seemed more urgent than the next.

The Utilize Health team rallied. We created a plan. We started to manually match patients to therapies and facilities across the country. Manual matching is completed by essentially looking at spreadsheets and other paper databases. Manual matching is time consuming. It takes anywhere from 7-10 days, sometimes longer.

In April, the Utilize Health team had successfully matched more than 100 patients to therapies and facilities across the country. Patients and their loved ones were thrilled with the resources Utilize Health was able to provide them.

Unfortunately, there are still patients and their families on the waitlist waiting to be matched. More patients sign up daily. With a wait list a mile long, we need to automate the matching process. This is when we decided to ask the public for help through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding has given us an opportunity to gain support within the community. In less than 48 hours, we raised more than $20,000. We were completely blown away by people’s generosity.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/utilize-health-matching-patients-to-the-care-they-need/embedded

All the funds pledged will do directly towards the development and creation of the web application to automate the matching process. Perks and prizes are offered such as Utilize Health swag and patient advocate subscriptions. Our campaign is live until August 22nd. Click on the link below to check out the campaign.

We are so thankful to everyone who has contributed thus far. We truly hope to make an impact for those individuals who have neurological conditions. As we say at Utilize Health, No One Walks Alone.

If you’re interested in the subject, why not join the Mendeley Crowdfunding group, or let us know in the comments below if you have any experiences to share with the community!

 

 

 

Crowdfunding for New Stem Cell Research into MS Treatment

 

Dr. Saud A. Sadiq and Dr. Violaine K. Harris  of Tisch MSRCNY’s Division of Regenerative Neurology
Dr. Saud A. Sadiq and Dr. Violaine K. Harris
of Tisch MSRCNY’s Division of Regenerative Neurology

On the Mendeley blog we’ve often talked about ways that crowdfunding is helping to finance some important research projects. This month’s guest post features a campaign which already surpassed its goal of raising $300,000 to enable a study into a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, using stem cells to potentially repair the damage caused by the disease. MS affects over 2.3 million people worldwide, with about 200 more being diagnosed every week. The Tisch MS Research Center in New York (Tisch MSRCNY) is dedicated to finding the yet-unknown cause of this devastating illness and eventually curing it. Here they talk about their work and what they hope to achieve.

By: Dr. Saud A. Sadiq, Director at the MS Research Center of New York

In August of 2013, our non-profit laboratory and research center received FDA approval for a groundbreaking Phase I Clinical Stem Cell Trial. This exciting milestone took over ten years of research to achieve and brings indescribable hope to MS patients and their loved ones all over the world.

The study utilizes adult stem cells harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow and attempts to repair the damage caused by multiple sclerosis. This trial is the first of its kind to be approved in the United States.  Funding is like oxygen for research. Without financial support, our research into regenerative therapy cannot survive. Since Tisch MSRCNY has not received federal, state or corporate funding to cover costs of this study, they decided to use Indiegogo to secure the critical funding that is needed to take this forward.

Tisch MSRCNY launched its first crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com last month, spearheaded by newly elected Chairman of the Board of Directors, David Greenstein. David also provided the inspiration and hope illustrated in the video that was created for this campaign. “It was only natural to turn to the industry-leading capabilities and international reach of Indiegogo to help bootstrap the crowd sourcing needed to enable this important clinical trial,” stated David. The campaign reached its minimum goal of $300K but is still seeking support to fund the study, so people can continue to get in touch for more information and ways to help the work even after the official closing deadline. They can also do this via the Tisch MS Research Center Website.

Since the launch of the Indiegogo campaign, the cutting-edge research being conducted at Tisch MSRCNY has received more awareness. The center has achieved a greater presence on social media and has connected with the top MS bloggers who have helped spread the word about this important initiative. A sense of community has developed as patients, friends, supporters and philanthropists have to come together to give this mission wings to fly.

The most popular campaign perk has been the Stem Cell Star which features a photo of stem cell harvested in the Tisch Laboratory. Other perks include Article Dedication in which a donor will be acknowledged in the next research publication by a Tisch MSRCNY researcher. There are also opportunities to spend an Evening with the Researchers and take a Private Tour of the Tisch MS Laboratory with Dr. Sadiq.

We’re interested to hear from the Mendeley community about any crowdfunding initiatives they are involved with or perhaps about research they are considering for crowdfunding. Do you think that these new ways of funding medical research are important, or are there concerns that need addressing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

The Power of Crowdfunding: A Chat with Ethan Perlstein

 

Ethan Perlstein

We love hearing about crowdfunded research projects. As an academic community that aims to bring together researchers from around the world, we get excited about the grass-roots appeal of science funded by enthusiastic peers. This week, we invited scientist and crowdfunding star Ethan Perlstein to sit down with us for a chat. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Nature, and Science. Ethan told us all about choosing alternative career paths, his recent fundraising campaigns and the new Perlstein Lab.

1) What’s your academic background?

I graduated from college in 2001 with a degree in sociology but I knew all along that I would go to grad school in biology. I worked summer internships at a small biotech company and at NIH in my last two years of high school and throughout college, so the transition was mostly painless. After getting my PhD in 2006, I took an amazing 5-yr independent postdoc position, where I managed a $1MM budget and a small team working in the area I dubbed evolutionary pharmacology. That position ended in 2012, the year I (and many others) encountered the buzz saw that is the postdocalypse. After two failed academic job search cycles, I exited academia to become an indie scientist and biotech entrepreneur focused on orphan disease drug discovery.

2) How did you learn about crowdfunding as a mechanism for funding your research?

I first heard about crowdfunding in 2010/2011 in the context of Kickstarter’s early successes in the arts. But I didn’t make the connection to the sciences until 2012 when I came across the mostly ecology folks who were participating in the SciFund Challenge (which has just launched its 4th round on the science crowdfunding platform Experiment). So if I had to pinpoint it in time, I’d say the summer of 2012 was when I started to consider crowdfunding a basic research project.

3) What led you to think it’s a viable mechanism to get actual science done?

When I realized that the most successful science crowdfunding campaigns were essentially asking for seed/exploratory funding (along the lines of the well established NIH R03 mechanism), I thought a compelling enough proposal could catch fire.

4) You previously did a crowdfunding campaign on RocketHub. Can you tell us about that experience? How much work was it, what was your strategy for success, what would you do different, and was it worth it overall?

Along with my Crowd4Discovery collaborators Prof David Sulzer and Daniel Korostyshevsky, we raised $25,000 for a basic pharmacology project to study the cellular distribution of amphetamines, including methamphetamine. It was a lot of work to run a social media campaign/offensive for two straight months. But we were rewarded with press coverage that stimulated almost half of our donations. For nuts and bolts advice and tactics, please see my published post-campaign analysis.

5) Now you’re opening your own independent lab. How big is the space, what are you working on, and how many people are in your lab?

Perlstein Lab is located in SF’s newest biotech incubator called QB3@953. Right now it’s just me and a team of advisors. The first team member has signed an offer letter, and I expect to fill out a 4-person team by the end of Spring. Perlstein Lab is initially focusing on a group of 47 related lysosomal storage diseases.

6) Besides funding, what have been the biggest hurdles? Are there some things you’d like to do that you can’t outside of a institution?

The “fundraising vortex” has been the biggest challenge by far, dwarfing all others. I’ve actually found few disadvantages to being outside the Edenic confines of the ivory tower, though paywalls are a constant annoyance. But I spent time and money building a brand for myself early in the process. That has gone a long way in terms of networking, opening doors, and getting key opinion leaders to take me seriously.

7) How are you handling requirements of journals to have ethics board approval for animal or human subjects research?

That’s a great question. Short answer is we haven’t crossed that bridge yet. Perlstein Lab’s platform is built on primordial animal models: yeast, worm, flies and fish. Only fish require regulatory approval. And since we’ll be operating in the preclinical space, we won’t be doing any research on human subjects.

8) There are some funding opportunities not available to you due to your independent status, but are there some available to you that wouldn’t be available to the average lab?

Yes. You don’t see academic labs get funding from angel investor networks. Instead they apply for SBIR/STTR grants to get nascent spinoffs off the ground. (Editor’s note: Ethan is reportedly closing on a lead venture investor now.)

9) What would you say to people who turn up their noses at the amount of money you raised in that campaign relative to the average R01?

I always remind them that the R01 isn’t really an apples to apples comparison. Rather the natural analog as I explained above is the R03, which is a smaller, non-renewable grant that funds exploratory projects. The idea here is that some R03s projects blossom into R01s. Just like in music and the arts, it’s one thing to crowdfund an album or a movie, but another thing to crowdfund a band or a movie studio.

10) What are your plans for the future? Any advice for postdocs who are considering this route?

I’m focused like a laser beam on assembling the Perlstein Lab team and becoming operational by the Spring. But I got here in large part by branding myself on my blog and on Twitter. The journey can start with a single tweet.

Crowdfunding Healthcare Logistics

 

Plushcare

 

UC Berkeley and health entrepreneurs use crowdfunding and technology to bring innovative solutions to healthcare, and do some good in the process:

By Ryan McQuaid, Founder of PlushCare

I’ve observed over the past 3-4 years that technologists want doctors to do more for less or they want to throw an app or device at patients to make them healthy – neither of which are sustainable in the long term. I believe that both the doctor and the patient need to be engaged and rewarded to have a successful partnership in a patient’s care plan.

That’s why I started PlushCare in a lean startup curriculum sponsored by Professor Kurt Beyer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The final assignment was to market-test PlushCare on Indiegogo, which is an incredible tool to quickly and cheaply validate an idea and understand your customers (who they are, willingness to pay, why they want your service, do they want a variation, etc). This project is a perfect example of how our educational system has evolved from classroom learning to experiential learning.

With PlushCare, our Stanford-trained physicians maintain a relationship with their patients via email, phone or video chat for a very low fee (currently offered at $80 per year on Indiegogo). Through mobile technology, we estimate that we can diagnose and treat (prescribing medication when necessary) 70% of the reasons patients go into the physician office. For the remaining 30%, we will consult with the patient’s primary care provider directly prior to the patient’s arrival. In addition, we can provide referrals to laboratories and specialists, and play a more pro-active role in our patients’ health. For example, the average person looks at his or her phone 150 times per day; I believe we can help send the right message at the right time to keep our patients on-track with their wellness goals.

In the long-term, we envision ourselves as the logistics provider for healthcare. Come to us and we will guide you seamlessly through the health system and efficiently manage healthcare resources. For example, our analytics may be certain that you have a sinus infection and we will send an antibiotic to you at your office without the intervention of a human resource, or we may send you to a nearby mid level practitioner at a Walgreens or CVS healthcare clinic. Another example is utilizing temporary or permanent slacks in supply to fulfil excess demand in other geographic locations. In San Francisco, there is deficit in paediatricians, but with PlushCare we can help bring the supply and demand curves to equilibrium by utilizing paediatricians in the suburbs.

Furthermore, we want to make a positive impact on a global scale. Today, a child dies every 20 seconds from a preventable disease because he or she lacks the access to life saving immunizations that keep children healthy. That’s why for every PlushCare sign-up, we are providing one child a lifetime of immunity. Join our movement to increase access, convenience and affordability. #gethealthgivehealth

Cutting-edge research into Parkinson’s turns to Crowdfunding

 

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Here at Mendeley we’re always interested in new ways that technology and social media can facilitate important research. Crowdfunding is one booming area that certainly brings those elements together, often in favour of some pretty awesome and worthy causes. So we thought we’d invite the folks at Indiegogo, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform, to highlight a research-based campaign that is making them excited at the moment. The one they came back with is called “we’re in this together” and broke the record for most successful health campaign in raising funds for world-class care and innovative research into Parkinson’s Disease:

By: Chelsea E.M. Kasai, Director of Development at the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center

Two and a half decades ago, a dedicated group of Parkinson’s disease experts set out to create a better way to research and provide care for Parkinson’s disease. We would go beyond your standard doctor-patient relationship. Patients would become partners in developing their care plans, improving their quality of life, and discovering new strategies to confront and manage their disease. Compassionate care would work

hand-in-hand with cutting-edge research to seek answers, develop new therapies and treatments, and ultimately work toward a cure. Our result was the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center.

Two months ago, the Parkinson’s Institute launched our very first crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Draper and his family. Bill’s wife Phyllis is living with Parkinson’s disease.

We are always looking for new and creative ways to attract funding and further diversify our development portfolio. Caring for people with Parkinson’s does not fit neatly into today’s healthcare economics. It takes much more than an assembly line approach and 15-minute consultation to provide appropriate and impactful care. Philanthropy ensures that when it comes to care—no sacrifice is made and no corner is cut. Government and foundation research grants only cover a modest portion of the expenses associated with our Institute’s remarkable science. Philanthropy drives the pace at which our Laboratory and Clinical Researchers are able to pursue their work.

Crowdfunding both intrigues and excites us. Our Indiegogo campaign has allowed us to amplify donor investments, connect with and engage new supporters, and explore an innovative and cutting-edge vehicle for philanthropy, community building, and learning.

We know that when a loved one is living with Parkinson’s, the entire family is living with the disease. So for this very special campaign, we asked Bill Draper and his family to share their story with the world. We launched our Indiegogo campaign on #GivingTuesday with a $100,000 dollar-for-dollar match from The Draper Foundation. In less than 4 days we raised over $200,000. Our early campaign success inspired a second matching fund from Parkinson’s Institute Board Member Peter Nosler and his wife Julie Veitch. We’ve now raised over half a million dollars—Indiegogo’s Most Funded Health Campaign to-date.

In addition to Bill’s story and video, our campaign has featured his son Tim Draper, fellow venture capitalist, and founder of Draper University and the BizWorld Foundation; daughter Polly Draper, actress, writer, producer, and director; and granddaughter Jesse Draper, actress, and creator and host of The Valley Girl Show.

Campaign perks include Photo Prints from the Schuele Lab (Dr. Birgitt Schuele is our Program Director of Gene Discovery and Stem Cell Modeling), Virtual Research Updates with our best and brightest minds in science, and an Espresso and History Lesson with Dr. Bill Langston, Parkinson’s Institute Founder and CEO (Dr. Langston gained national and international recognition in the 1980s for the discovery of the link between a tainted “synthetic heroin” and Parkinsonism—MPTP).

More about the Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center

Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center is America’s only independent non-profit organization combining world-class care, Clinical Research, and Laboratory Research for Parkinson’s disease under one roof. By virtue of our design, we are uniquely equipped to provide the best care, accelerate promising science, and perhaps most important—integrate the two and everything in between. It’s what we now call Our Virtuous Circle and people living with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones are at the center of all that we do. Learn more by visiting ThePI.org.

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If you’d like to support this campaign, you can visit and share their page on Indiegogo. We’d also love to hear about your own experiences of crowdfunding your research, so either leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Crowdfunding group on Mendeley.

Technology and Research Mendeley Masterclass

©Tom Atkinson 2013 - www.r3digital.co.uk
©Tom Atkinson 2013

Last month we saw another edition of the global extravaganza that is Social Media Week. This time around there were over 1000 events and 25,000 attendees in 8 cities around the globe. The theme for this year was “Open & Connected” which is pretty much a perfect fit for the Mendeley philosophy. So we thought it would be great to host an event in the London SMW Hub about how technology is changing the way we conduct and fund research, how researchers interact, discover content and share their findings, as well as how the non-academic public can get involved and make a real different through citizen science initiatives.

Our Masterclass was streamed live and proved to be one of the most popular events of the week, with hundreds of people tuning in and sending their own questions.

Mendeley Co-founder and President Jan Reichelt kicked off the series of lightning presentations by explaining how Mendeley can help researchers organise their papers, but also how it went far beyond that. “Research is an inherently social activity, and Mendeley is an environment starting with productivity going over into collaboration, and that also crucially captures the social context going on around that research.”

Rachel Greene from JoVE challenged researchers to “stop reading and start watching,” explaining how the majority of the time scientists failed to accurately replicate the findings of key studies. She believes that technologies such as the one used in their peer-reviewed Journal of Visualized Experiments are much more suited for that purpose than traditional print, and can therefore dramatically increase reproducibility and the pace of scientific discovery.

“In the past everything was recorded on paper, but current science is very digital,” says IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg from Elsevier’s Article of the Future project, which aims to improve scientific communication in all its rich facets. “All the records are digital, all the capturing of scientific data is digital, and the communication of that information of course is also digital. However the traditional publishers have not yet adapted to that, what they usually do is flatten the multidimensional, rich research that an author has created into a two-dimensional paper of text and images.” He gave insight into some tantalizing possibilities, including the ability to run variations of some experiments – in computer science for example – within the parameters of the article itself, making it a living, evolving piece of collaborative research.

Nicolai Humphreys from The Lancet told of how the meaning of the journal’s name came from the fact that “A lancet can be an arched window to let light in and can also be a sharp surgical instrument to cut out the dross” and upon founding the journal in 1823 Thomas Wakley stated his intention that the publication should serve both those functions. Fast-forward nearly 200 years and Nicolai is part of the team that is using technology to cut out the dross and make academic publishing more dynamic and cutting edge.

Emma Cooper described the journey that took their digital amusements company Team Cooper to developing a Facebook game in conjunction with The Sainsbury Laboratory to help harness the brainpower of citizen scientists to tackle Ash Dieback disease. Quoting Dr Dan MacLean, who approached them about building the game with their data, “humans are smart and humorous, and we love games.” The key to the success of Fraxinus is the human ability to recognise patterns, and this proved really addictive with players (over 38,000 in the first month), who spend 20 minutes on average playing the game, where the average tends to be around 5-10 minutes.

That is what Robert Simpson from citizen science web portal Zooniverse calls “cognitive surplus,” which describes the vast amount of time that we collectively spend on activities such as watching TV. “The human race spends 16 years every hour playing Angry Birds every hour. There’s a lot of brainpower out there and what we try to do is take that brainpower and make it more useful to researchers.” The team at Zooniverse works with researchers to design sites that take their data and presents it into a format that will let the crowd help them to achieve their objectives. In the case of Snapshot Serengeti, for example, this meant classifying the millions of pictures taken over 2 years by camera traps in Tanzania to provide new insight into wildlife dynamics.

“These days with modern technology Citizen Science is becoming a fresh new hot subject in science,” says Margaret Gold of Citizen Cyberlab, which is leveraging the web, mobile phones and other tools and platforms to enable crowd-sourced scientific research. “We give people across the globe an interactive means to either help with the collection of data or the processing of data, pattern recognition and so forth, and all this makes a very genuine contribution towards science.”

Dr Rayna Stamboliyska, a Research Fellow and Digital Content Coordinator at the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity in Paris, believes that technology can be used to bring research into primary schools, and that “we can change the world many kids at a time.” In these programs, PhD fellows work with school children to develop research projects, leveraging and incorporating various technologies and social media. “This not only engages them in the STEM curricula at a young age, but it’s a really gender neutral policy, so we’re addressing the problem of having so few women in science.”

But ground-breaking research often comes across the stumbling block that is lack of funding, and this is where Liz Wald from Indiegogo believes that crowdfunding can help scientists. “it’s really about getting rid of gatekeepers, knocking down barriers and taking ideas right to the crowd,” she said as she went through a few of the projects that were crowdfunded through Indiegogo, such as Kite Patch (a patch that lets people avoid mosquito bites) and uBiome (where you sent off swabs of your bacteria to them so that they could let you know more about yourself and also help the wider project to sequence the Microbiome). The message was that people will not only fund cool and useful gadgets, but all forms of science as long as you tell a good story.

If you missed it on the day don’t worry, all the presentations are on the Mendeley YouTube Channel, so you can watch them any time and let us know what you think! There are also some cool pictures of the day available on our Flickr page, we had a great time and thanks again to all our speakers and community!