mercialization is very expensive (Nelson, 2008). As a result, private industry has focused less on earlier-stage development and instead on later-stage research, where the chances of success are higher. Consequently, a gap in the process of translating basic research into commercially viable product candidates exists.

This has an effect on translational research at the academic level as well. Novel discoveries made by clinical researchers about the nature and progression of disease help to stimulate basic investigations in academia. Without these discoveries, research is hindered and diagnosis and treatment are slowed. In order to better position public–private partnerships to facilitate drug development, it is highly beneficial to take an initial assessment of what aspects of drug discovery and development research academia does best, what aspects the private sector does best, and what aspects are best done truly collaboratively. From there, partners can begin to map out their responsibilities and goals.

Fortunately, voluntary health organizations are helping to bridge the gap in the process of translating basic research into commercially viable product candidates, funding efforts to translate initial scientific discoveries into testable, clinical-stage drug development candidates, biomarkers, and diagnostic tools. This new model of venture philanthropy has been proven on the ground, not only in the pioneering work in polio, but in the current success of organizations like the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, whose venture philanthropy efforts have created a broad pipeline of drugs that are advancing rapidly toward the clinic.

Today, an ever-increasing number of voluntary health organizations are developing translational research programs and are looking for new ways to leverage their resources and know-how to fulfill their missions and impact the lives of patients.


The presentations and discussions during the workshop showed that moving into research supported by venture philanthropy involves real risks and unique challenges. The venture philanthropy model calls for voluntary health organizations that are accustomed to working solely with other nonprofits to instead engage directly with the for-profit world, working hand in hand with (and investing in) private industry as they seek to advance drugs into the clinic. The transition from funding nonprofit research to funding for-profit activities is a large one, and it raises

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