supporting the earliest stages of drug development and engaging in translational research.

On October 3, 2008, a wide range of participants, from voluntary health organizations to academic investigators to industry representatives, gathered at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine, California, for a workshop titled “Venture Philanthropy Strategies Used by Patient Organizations to Support Translational Research” (the workshop). Participants were selected from a variety of backgrounds and were asked to discuss and share their own experiences and lessons learned as their organizations moved into a translational research program supported through venture philanthropy strategies.

Workshop chair Timothy Coetzee, executive director of Fast Forward of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, noted that embracing venture philanthropy does not mean turning away from original and basic science research. In explaining why the dynamics are shifting, he reiterated that while supporting scientific discovery is still important, it is also important to develop new funding models that bring products into the clinic. Workshop participants focused on the how and why of developing such new funding models to bring products and, most important, hope to patients.


An increasing number of voluntary health organizations are looking at venture philanthropy as a critical way to advance their mission of helping patients and working to cure disease. The concept of “venture philanthropy” stems from venture capitalism, which invests money from various third-party sources in typically high-risk areas. For example, in medical research, adopting a venture philanthropy approach entails operating within the translational space, working through one’s funding and strategic leadership to help draw discoveries out of the academic sector and into the hands of parties with the ability to commercialize new therapies. A venture philanthropy strategy is unique in that its mission is aligned with philanthropic goals and outcomes—namely, new therapies and cures for diseases—and whose efforts are supported primarily by individuals and foundations whose urgency for such cures is great. The standard approach to research funding has not demonstrated sufficient results, and venture philanthropy represents a new model by which

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