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Creating Good Cancer Research


In previous articles we’ve discussed key fundamentals of The Cure Starts Now grant funding process. And while this helps to perfect what we fund, how exactly does the Medical Advisory Council of The Cure Starts Now keep creating and finding good projects?

The first thing to understand is that The Cure Starts Now is the “un-charity”. Rather than to simply assume the mistakes of the past, we believe the model of cancer research must be revolutionized. We just can fund the same projects others fund in the same way they fund them. Currently there are three models of grant funding utilized among cancer charity organizations:

  1. 1. Close to Home – Catering to local strengths of fundraising, the great majority of cancer charities employ a motto of “the money we raise here we spend here.” And while this may be good for fundraising (and even beneficial for many social oriented charities) when it comes to medical research, you can’t put all your “eggs in one basket.” Especially with DIPG and DMG, one particular hospital may only have an expert in one field such as pathology or oncology and a homerun cure may take them all, thus necessitating collaboration and a worldwide view.
  2. 2. Best Of – Clearly the easiest way to review grants, many charities go through a simple process of determining a budget of annual funding and then open the floodgates of grant applications and just take the best of the group. This leads to inevitable duplication of grants, no real long-term strategy in funding and limitations of expertise. And whereas in one year they may have a great pool of applications and only be able to fund a few, in the very next year they may have a poor pool of grants and fund too many of them.
  3. 3. The Grant Bounty – Attempting to bring strategy to the grant process, or at least collaboration, fewer foundations set a bounty on a “dream project”. In this they may offer up amounts around $1,000,000 or more for 3-4 institutions to collaborate on an audacious project such as genome mapping, high throughput drug testing or another ambitious project too big for just one organization. These grants get institutions cooperating, but ultimately still do not embrace a long term strategy that can continue beyond the bounty grant.

So what makes what The Cure Starts Now funds any different? For us, we have to employ a multi-dimensional grant strategy. True, we do use the “best of” strategy to unearth discoveries we may have not considered. We are use the “grant bounty” strategy when we are trying to incentivize things such as a registry to accumulate data about DIPG. But regardless of the first two, all is based on a 10-year plan and educational forums designed to build “generational research.” In short, our Medical Advisory Council identifies key focus points that are needed in the next 5 to 10 years (such as a drug delivery system, basic research and a consortium to deliver proven clinical trials) and then identifies those researchers that can best deliver the collaboration to make it happen.

In the end, research must be viewed in the long term, just like any other seemingly impossible goal. And when it is, you need not only fund good ideas but fuel them by building generations of researchers to make it happen.