A little while back, I pointed out the Immortality Institute's present fundraising program for modestly sized research projects. The Institute volunteers solicit proposals from life science researchers, showcase the most worthy, and match donations with funds from from the Institute coffers. The latest project will run in a Singaporean research laboratory and investigate mitochondrial uncoupling.
I believe that this model for fundraising represents the future of research funding: a very transparent process, in which donors can educate themselves about the science, pick and choose exactly the projects they are willing to fund, and engage with the researchers in dialog and feedback. Many small projects compete for funding in place of one large umbrella grant, adding an additional layer of incentives to competition, frugality, and ingenuity. Over time I expect to see the big grant model diminish in size and many competing philanthropic and for-profit venture funding marketplaces for small life science research projects grow energetically.
This transformation of the funding environment is exactly what happened in many other fields - such as, say, software development - as the cost of equipment, development, and investigation fell. When it costs less that $10,000 to accomplish something useful, there will be a great many more people interested in trying than when it cost $100,000, and the way in which people organize themselves to raise funds will be very different.
Biotechnology is entering this new era of low costs and new participants now, and I think it's important to encourage the new fundraising models - and greater transparency in research - wherever possible. Hence I donated to the Institute to help fund this research project, and encouraged everyone else to do likewise.
We absolutely want to see many, many more grassroots organizations adopt this sort of fundraising operation: pick good projects that get the most out of modest donations, and make the most of new technology and established facilities.
I'm pleased to note that a number of folk followed through, and the fundraising target has been met. Thank you all. You can follow the research as it takes place and ask questions of the researchers over in the Immortality Institute forums - take advantage of the opportunity. This is the way in which research will progress in the future, with a great deal more dialog and openness.