FasterCures, a nonprofit organization that, as its name suggests, is dedicated to accelerating medical breakthroughs, recently published a special report: “Honest Brokers for Cures – How Venture Philanthropy Groups are Changing Biomedical Research.”
The report describes how nonprofits such as LLS are adopting the tools and techniques of venture capital finance, and the strategies and tactics of high-technology business management.
According to the report, this transition promotes the realignment of incentives across academic, industry, and public interest around one goal, and one goal alone: accelerating the development of treatments and cures for some of the world’s most challenging diseases. As a result, these organizations are changing the landscape of biomedical research, often well below the radar of the traditional medical research community.”
For this report, FasterCures conducted interviews with leaders from 20 participating organizations of The Research Acceleration and Innovation Network (TRAIN), of which The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is a member, and I was honored to be among those interviewed. Being part of TRAIN gives us the opportunity to discuss the challenges and share strategies for getting promising therapies more quickly to patients who urgently need them.
In my comments to FasterCures I explained that throughout LLS’s history, we have followed the traditional model of accepting applications from scientists and awarding them grants based on merit. We continue to award grants in this way, but we also realized several years ago that we needed to accelerate drug development. The answer was to embrace and enable the process of drug discovery, from beginning to end. This was the basis for launching the Therapy Acceleration Program in 2007. Since then, we have become more deeply engaged in partnerships with biotechnology start-ups and pharmaceutical companies and managing promising product development projects to surmount the investment risk threshold.
I enjoy explaining our new approach to driving the research agenda by saying, “We are not your grandfather’s charity!” We survey the scientific landscape ourselves, develop an agenda to strategically deploy research dollars, and then monitor progress to ensure we are making the smartest use of that money. We believe this is the best way to find new therapies and cures, and we hold ourselves accountable, now more than ever, to the blood cancer patients whose lives we seek to save.