FASEB Holds Its Annual Face-to-Face SPC Meeting to Discuss Basic Research Funding During a Time of Fiscal Constraint
Created by on 06/03/2013

By Allison Lea

On June 2-3, FASEB’s Science Policy Committee (SPC) held its annual face-to-face meeting in Bethesda, MD, where the main topic of discussion was to address the decreasing federal funding opportunities for basic scientific research. In his opening remarks, FASEB Vice-President Elect Dr. Peter Rubenstein (who will become Chair of the SPC and the FASEB Vice President for Science Policy in July) described the importance of exploring non-federal funding opportunities, as well as identifying ways in which FASEB can increase awareness of alternative funding strategies among its society members.

The Committee heard four presentations from different areas of non-federal funding: private foundation and philanthropy; industry; commercialization; and crowd sourcing. Dr. T.J. Koerner, Director of Research Information Management at the American Cancer Society (ACS) explained that the role of private funders is to provide catalytic support for risky but important projects that are either too sensitive or not sufficiently incremental for governmental funding. For example, over the last decade ACS has funded one third of grants to new cancer investigators that the National Cancer Institute is often able to fund. Dr. Koerner also introduced the Health Research Alliance, which was established with the goal of bringing together non-profit, non-governmental organizations to optimize the impact of investment in biomedical research and training to improve human health.

Dr. Shiv Krishnan, Senior Director of Scouting and Partnering at Sanofi, described the need for collaboration between academia and biomedical research and discovery, and highlighted several models currently being pursued by Sanofi to achieve this goal. For instance, Sanofi’s “Access” Platform invests in research from public lab sources to develop pharmaceutical tools and leads and new intellectual property. In addition, Sanofi utilizes broad umbrella agreements with top institutions with a potential for large collaborations with minimal financial risk.

To explore additional, outside-of-the-box funding opportunities, the SPC also heard presentations from Daniel Gutierrez, CEO and Co-founder of FundaGeek, who emphasized how crowdfunding can be utilized to supplement grants by engaging the public to encourage investment in scientific research, and Duane Roth, CEO of Connect, who demonstrated a commercial approach to catalyzing scientific innovation and entrepreneurship. During the panel discussion following the four presentations, Committee members questioned how they might better inform Congress of the need for funding basic research and determine potential sources of non-federal funding.