Bioscience crowdfunding platform launches for new & rare disease research
• FutSci, crowdfunding platform for life sciences, launches this week
• First of its kind
• Fills gaps in traditional funding for life sciences
June 03, 2015, Cardiff, UK. Press Dispensary.
A wholly new way to fund life science research, complementing more traditional funding, is to be launched this week. Futsci is the first crowdfunding platform run by scientists and dedicated to funding research, innovation and technology in life sciences.
FutSci (https://futsci.com ) is being launched by Dr Deepika Kassen (a molecular biologist) and Dr Gayathri Perera (a dermatologist and immunologist), the idea having evolved during years of experience at the sharp end of life science research and funding. It will provide a platform where accredited researchers and scientists can post any project in need of funding, at any stage, and donors worldwide can select the individual projects they wish to support, with donations in multiple currencies starting as low as £1 and no upper limit. All projects will be vetted prior to going live on the platform and all scientists will be affiliated with recognised institutes.
Co-founder Dr Deepika Kassen says: "There's a major funding gap for life sciences in the UK. It isn't just that there's been no life sciences crowdfunding platform before FutSci; it's also an absence of grants and funds for research into less well-known diseases and conditions, and a dearth of small-scale grants and funds for early stage projects.
"Particularly, there's almost no funding for blue-sky thinking(1) and very little support for researchers in the early stages of their careers(2). It's little wonder the majority of scientists who cannot access funding leave science altogether, as they cannot sustain themselves and or their research(3). Every year in the UK there's a huge loss of scientific knowledge and expertise: it's a silent brain-drain."
Co-founder Dr Gayathri Perera says: "This is what FutSci is built for. With FutSci, we will engage the public in helping to fund basic research projects, such as pilots that could then go on to receive grants, and research into rare diseases that may have affected them or their friends and family, and we'll give them a say in choosing the research that's important to them. FutSci will enable donors to choose the specific projects they wish to fund and to engage directly in dialogue with the scientists and researchers they're supporting via the platform.
"A donor would feel a strong connection to a researcher who's investigating a disease so close to the donor's heart. And scientists would clearly and transparently keep the public informed about what they're doing and how their donors' money is being spent."
Further benefits of FutSci are its engagement with schools and encouragement of young people to develop their interests in science, coupled with a News and Views section to provide up-to-date reviews of current trends in life science research and scientific advancements, providing information on the typical process, costs and people involved.
Dr Kassen says: "We want to foster public engagement in bioscience and biomedical research and to encourage young people to consider a science career. Scientists can be approached by schools to get a true picture of what it's like to study for a science degree, what happens in a lab, the different kinds of science available and also what doors can be opened by having a science degree, with an emphasis on promoting and retaining women in science."
FutSci launches at https://futsci.com on June 3, 2015.
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Notes for editors
This release is accompanied by a white paper on current sources of UK life sciences funding, which may be found at http://bit.ly/futsci-whitepaper
FutSci is the UK's first crowdfunding platform dedicated to life science research and run by scientists for scientists and the public. It was co-founded by Dr Deepika Kassen (BSc, BSc Hons, MSc, PhD) and Dr Gayathri Perera (MA, BM BCh, MRCP PhD) and co-ordinately run between Cardiff and London.
Dr Kassen is a molecular biologist specialising in cancer and stem cell biology. She completed her Bachelors of Science and Honours degrees focusing on Genetics and Microbiology and then went on to gain a Masters of Science in Molecular Biology at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She completed here PhD at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), Switzerland. She subsequently held Postdoctoral Research Fellow positions at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, King’s College London (St Johns’ Institute of Dermatology) and the University College London Cancer Institute..
Dr Perera is a Consultant Dermatologist working in the NHS and an Immunolgist collaborating in clinical and laboratory-based research. She graduated from the University of Oxford where she gained a Master of Arts in Neurophysiology and her Bachelors in Medicine and Surgery. She subsequently did her postgraduate training at Northwick Park Hospital where she obtained her postgraduate qualifications granting her membership to the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP). During her dermatology training at St John’s Institute of Dermatology (King’s College London (KCL)) she undertook a 4-year research project that was funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). She was awarded her PhD in Immunology by KCL.
Dr Kassen and Dr Perera have extensive experience within the bioscience/biomedical field. The FutSci concept was evolved over the many years that both Dr Kassen and Dr Perera spent performing research in various academic institutions and from their experience in applying for research grants. They witnessed many young gifted scientists leaving research due to lack of funding rather than lack of talent and interest, as well as many good and highly relevant projects being dropped by various institutions due to lack of funding. They also realised that there was a great exodus of talented women leaving the scientific arena.
Footnotes to press release
1 Dr Kassen adds: "Blue sky research is vital to science and can have truly groundbreaking potential but it often falls by the wayside because research councils and charities have specific remits about the type of projects that they will fund. The eventual result is a lack of innovative thinking and scientific discovery and this has been identified as an emerging threat to scientific innovation as shown by a recent quote by Sydney Brenner on Fred Sanger (2 Nobel prize winners in science) in an issue of Science (1)Science 17 January 2014: Vol. 343 no. 6168 p. 262:
'A Fred Sanger would not survive today’s world of science. With continuous reporting and appraisals, some committee would note that he published little of import between insulin in 1952 and his first paper on RNA sequencing in 1967 with another long gap until DNA sequencing in 1977. He would be labelled as unproductive, and his modest personal support would be denied. We no longer have a culture that allows individuals to embark on long-term—and what would be considered today extremely risky—projects.'
2 Dr Kassen adds: "It's wrong that researchers into rare diseases and innovative new approaches spend most of their time seeing doors slamming in their faces. And worse, what funding there is for early stage researchers is falling year on year, and is strongly weighted against research led by women. When we looked at funding by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSC), the most important source to us of government funding, we found the percentage going to un-established researchers and early career scientists (post-doctoral researchers) had steadily declined over the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. Of this breakdown there was a stark gender inequality in allocation of funds. The latter has wider implications for generations to come."
3 Dr Kassen adds: "Early career scientists, future scientific leaders, need grants to fund their salary and other laboratory consumables. But analysis reveals a higher likelihood of failure than success, at which point the majority of scientists have no further options but to leave science as they cannot sustain themselves and or their research, draining the UK of scientific expertise and knowledge, as well as potential ground-breaking and innovative scientific thought and hypotheses. Evidence suggests that women, who get rejected, are much more reticent about re-applying for grants and also take longer than their male counterparts when re-applying for the same or similar grants. It is evidenced that the dropout rate for women within the STEM careers is higher due to short term funding and thus lack of long term financial security: see paragraph 10 (The leaky pipeline) of the House of Commons Report into Women in Scientific Careers 2012-13. Add to this constant governmental cuts in the funding of science and we are on the verge of losing some our best scientific minds."
For further information, please contact:
Deepika Kassen, Co-founder and director
Tel: 07545 554154
Dr Gayathri Perera, Co-founder and director
Tel: 07957 695781