Centralized science was incredibly effective during WW2 — it helped create the atomic bomb, radar, & more.
However, the current system for funding research is broken.
The institutional model has run its course—here's why the future of science funding will be decentralized. 🧵👇
1/ In 2012, researchers in Australia wasted 500+ years worth of time writing grant proposals that never got approved.
Our current system is inefficient at allocating capital and lacks diversity, both in the people and ideas that get funded.
2/ Scientists spend too much time writing grant proposals and institutions spend too much money reviewing those proposals.
In some cases, the value of time spent writing proposals is comparable to the value of the grant itself.
3/ The centralized model has also hampered who and what gets supported. The share of NIH grant recipients under the age of 35 has dropped off dramatically, while the share of researchers over 66 is steadily rising.
4/ In fact, the mode of age distributions for NIH grant recipients is increasing consistent with the passage of time. This suspicious correlation suggests the same cohort of PIs are receiving NIH funding.
5/ In the world of academia, credentials and connections are becoming more important, rewarding established researchers and punishing younger scientists.
6/ This impacts what research get funded.
Grant reviewers tend to support proposals they are more familiar with and reject novel ideas.
7/ Indeed, as the peer-review system has matured, it has biased towards thinking inside the box.
Here, @DKThomp coins the term "data-dulling" to describe what has happened in many fields including science funding.
8/ It is difficult for independent researchers pursuing novel, untested ideas to receive backing.The system rewards academics pursuing tried and true methods rather than scrappy teams pushing the boundaries of human understanding.
9/ This is the crux of the problem in science funding today: Developing cures and making discoveries isn’t the hard part—it’s getting the money to do so.
10/ While all this sounds dire, there are talented teams working on ways to rethink how we fund research.
How does decentralization solve the problem? Let's explore 2 projects that are tackling some of the problems in science funding today.
11/ First up is @vibe_bio, a project trying to solve to solve the problem of drug development for rare/orphan diseases.
Even though 1 in 10 Americans suffer from a rare disease, funding for specific treatments is often overlooked
12/ The biology of many rare diseases is actually well-understood.However, funding sources shy away from developing therapies—usually due to unclear profitability or an aversion to using public funds on a niche ailment.
13/ Thus, while developing treatments for rare diseases is actually significantly cheaper than non-rare diseases, the current model has created a gap in funding.
Estimating the clinical cost of drug development for orphan versus non-orphan drugs - Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
Background High orphan drug prices have gained the attention of payers and policy makers. These prices may reflect the need to recoup the cost of drug development from a small patient pool. However, estimates of the cost of orphan drug development are sparse. Methods Using publicly available data, we estimated the differences in trial characteristics and clinical development costs with 100 orphan and 100 non-orphan drugs. Results We found that the out-of-pocket clinical costs per approved orphan drug to be $166 million and $291 million (2013 USD) per non-orphan drug. The capitalized clinical costs per approved orphan drug and non-orphan drug were estimated to be $291 million and $412 million respectively. When focusing on new molecular entities only, we found that the capitalized clinical cost per approved orphan drug was half that of a non-orphan drug. Conclusions More discussion is needed to better align on which cost components should be included in research and development costs for pharmaceuticals.
14/ Vibe Bio is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) made up of patients, scientists, and partners. Together, the community proposes and decides on what research to pursue.
15/ Projects are vetted and scored by a group of expert scientists and ultimately stack ranked for the community to decide on funding allocation.Vibe has created a decentralized model for proposing, vetting, and allocating capital to research.
16/ Vibe is also unique in that each proposal is not a start-to-finish drug development project.Instead, proposals can be anything from a petri dish test to running a clinical trial.This modular approach makes funding and research more flexible and experiment driven.
17/ Proposals are funded by sales of the $VIBE token. VIBE also serves as the DAO's governance token—any holder is eligible to put forth a governance proposal. As therapies are developed and commercialized, revenues are funneled back into the DAO to fund future projects.
18/ The token-driven model ensures that key stakeholders—patients and scientists—are the ones driving research decisions.
Over time, Vibe hopes that their community will serve as the infrastructure for other disease groups to develop and fund research.
19/ Next is @Molecule_dao, a marketplace for biotech IP.
Molecule connects researchers to investors/collaborators interested in their work. Together, Molecule offers scientists new ways to receive funding and gives stakeholders new ways to get their projects off the ground.
20/ Molecule's key innovation is the IP-NFT, a digital asset that facilitates access to research IP.Scientists are able to tokenize their research assets—data, patents, etc—and trade them to investors or others interested in their work.
21/ Molecule's infrastructure allows for data generated from research to be uploaded to a decentralized storage solution.
The IP-NFT not only grants the token holder rights to the data, but serves as the "key" to unlocking and accessing the data.
22/ This innovative solution expands the funding opportunities for researchers.
Similar to traditional NFTs, IP-NFTs can be programmed with royalties so that any time they are traded, a portion of the sale is transferred back to the researcher.
23/ Researchers will also find it easier to raise funding for projects.Instead of writing grant proposals or incorporating a startup to receive venture funding, independent researchers can leverage IP-NFTs to raise $$$ from anyone who believes in the value of their research.
24/ This approach is especially effective for research proposals that don't yet have a clear market.By licensing the future IP of a proposal, investors can make bets on early-stage research and scientists can receive support for work that is pre-product/patent.
25/ IP-NFTs can also be integrated into the wider web3 and defi ecosystem.
As tokens, research assets can be traded in liquid markets, collateralized, and borrowed against. Further innovations in defi will only expand the funding opportunities for researchers.
26/ Ultimately, Molecule aims to be the "OpenSea for biotech IP," where the scientific community to discover and trade findings.
27/ These 2 projects are just a snapshot of the wider "DeSci" ecosystem.There are also projects addressing data sharing, research replication, and more. The future of science will be built on this decentralized, public infrastructure.
- Vibe is using decentralized governance to give patients power over research
- Molecule is using IP-NFTs to create a marketplace to find and trade research IP
- Desci projects using the web3 stack are looking to make science more open and effective