How to crowdfund the development of products, with variants such as crowdfunding to purchase equity in a company rather than a product, is a solved problem. Enabled by the internet, crowdfunding clearly works well when those who provide the funds will obtain something of concrete value in the near term as a result, be it a product or equity. Unfortunately, the established approaches to crowdfunding, exemplified by platforms such as Kickstarter, fail to work at scale when the goal is to fund scientific research. People have tried, numerous times, to make a Kickstarter for scientific research, with Experiment being perhaps the best of the resulting failures. The fundamental issue is that without the quid pro quo of a product or equity, some concrete value obtained, the incentives and feedback loops that make Kickstarter and its ilk work are absent.
The only type of crowdfunding that works to fund scientific research is small in scale, a matter of enabling passionate special interest communities to fund favored projects in ways that are not appreciably different from pre-Internet non-profit pledge drives. I'd like to think that our own, still comparatively small longevity-focused community has proven to be fairly adept at this sort of thing, with groups such as Lifespan.io enabling a number of crowdfunded projects to proceed over the years.
Still, much more is needed. Enter VitaDAO, which is structured in a way made possible by blockchain technology, and which probably could not have arisen absent the present fervor for blockchain implementations such as cryptocurrencies. The core ideas on how to make crowdfunding of research actually work, implemented by VitaDAO, could just as well be put into practice by an ordinary non-profit organization with centralized administrative software, absent a blockchain implementation, however. One could argue that the primary use for blockchains here was to enable VitaDAO to start out with a very large warchest of funds via a token launch, without the need to convince the traditional, highly skeptical sources of non-profit funding to back such a project. That is important!
The core ideas appear good, and VitaDAO does indeed have deep pockets with which to fund research. Stripped down, the concept is to build a self-sustaining long term research fund in which: (a) people buy into the organization, putting in funds to obtain voting rights on which research projects to fund; (b) deals are struck with universities and startups to provide funding for specific projects in exchange for a cut of later patents, royalties, equity, or similar flows of funds; (c) successfully commercialized research will lead to funds flowing back into VitaDAO for investment into research. There are numerous ways in which VitaDAO could perhaps help to make such commercialization easier in the future, such as by building a marketplace akin to, say, BioNeex or similar.
The additions to this core idea made possible by the use of blockchain technologies revolve around decentralization of governance, keeping track of ownership, and perhaps later allowing trading on interests in research programs. But the current administrators have structured the organization and its work, quite carefully, in order to avoid any appearance of conducting a stock offering or producing a trading platform. Regulatory compliance is very important in this part of the field. The core of it is the virtuous feedback loop of funds, governance, and income from successful commercialization - a slow loop, given the timelines for moving from research to clinical, but there nonetheless.
VitaDAO is focused on the longevity industry and aging research aimed at lengthening the healthy human life span, an endeavor with strong support in the broader cryptocurrency community, as illustrated by large donations to organizations such as the SENS Research Foundation in recent years. But there is no reason as to why this model couldn't work for any arbitrary field of research with a strongly interested community of laypeople cheering it on. Environmental science, for example, or many others.
VitaDAO is in its early stages, but they have passed the first few most difficult hurdles. Firstly, they have obtained significant funds to deploy to research programs via a token offering. Secondly they have structured the first deals with a university, laying the groundwork for future similar agreements. After that, the rest is largely a matter of attracting attention and keeping the wheels turning. Any researcher or entrepreneur who is looking for a $250,000 grant in exchange for a modest interest in later patents or royalties can step up today and pitch the VitaDAO community and leadership on their project. We live in interesting times!
VitaDAO is a new cooperative vehicle for community-governed and decentralized drug development. Our core mission is the acceleration of R&D in the longevity space and the extension of human life and healthspan. To achieve this, VitaDAO utilizes a combination of novel governance (distributed autonomous organizations - DAOs), digital assets (non-fungible tokens - NFTs), and financial market frameworks (automated market makers - AMMs).
Value creation in biopharma centers heavily around intellectual property assets and patents as core drivers for funding and innovation. Yet intellectual property ownership as a business model has barely evolved in the past century. Current biopharma business models carry severe limitations and R&D inefficiencies that cost those who should be the core stakeholders: patients and researchers.
We believe the future of biopharma is transparent, collaborative, and open source. VitaDAO is an open cooperative that anyone can join, with the goal to acquire, support and finance new therapeutics and research data in the longevity space. The VitaDAO collective will directly hold legal IP rights to these projects and may develop a growing portfolio of assets represented as NFTs. Members of the public can join VitaDAO and become owners of its IP by purchasing VITA tokens through contributing funds, work, or valuable research data or IP assets. Ownership and governance of VitaDAO requires VITA tokens. VITA tokens enable their holder to engage in decision-making and governance of VitaDAO's research, signal support for specific initiatives, and govern its data repositories and IP portfolio.
VitaDAO will acquire and commission research, as well as own, develop and monetize the resulting intellectual property assets. VitaDAOs portfolio consists of: 1) NFTs representing intellectual property, patents and licenses to therapeutic research projects; 2) Data assets generated by funding R&D around its research projects and NFTs. Vetted longevity research projects will request funds from VitaDAO, and members will vote to grant or raise those funds in exchange for ownership in the resulting IP. To fund more research and to provide long term funding for the DAO operations, there are several options to monetize owned data and IP. VitaDAO can enter co-development deals with private companies or other DAOs. in single or multi-license agreements, VitaDAO could license data and IP to 3rd parties, or could sell to the highest suitable bidder.