The future state of scientific funding seems to have become a topic of concern lately, especially as talk of sequestration seeps from Washington, DC. Regardless of individual politics, the fact appears to be simple: there is going to be less money coming from the federal government. The effects of less money coming in could no doubt be devastating for research nationwide, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) warns that the cuts “would have catastrophic outcomes for the future of science and innovation.” The tightening of the government purse strings, however, is nothing new for scientific research. Funding for first-time research grant applications by NIH has been on the decline for more than a decade, and while it is important to make efforts to preserve government funding in the sciences, we, as a scientific community, need to look for ways to continue to grow without it.

One way, of course, is to do more with less. And with the customers and researchers that we’ve been talking to, that message is resonating. From looking for new sources for products, to making their own buffers, researchers are looking for creative ways to stretch their dollars. I was recently connected with a story of two Johns Hopkins researchers who are doing just that with an idea to create their own bonds, investment bonds that is, for biomedical research funding.

This idea is not new in other countries, but is a fresh way of thinking here in the US. The full article will appear in the December 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The details of this program are more technical than I’d venture to break down, but this explanation from an article in Biotechniques lays it out pretty well:

"…research [would be] combined into pools of equity. The pools could be turned into bonds, and their equity would generate income to allow bond amortization.The pools of intellectual property used to create bonds could be any combination of research. Some might be focused on a particular state—one could invest in Massachusetts research, for example. Others might be regional—a Delaware-New Jersey-Pennsylvania pharmaceutical pool. And some could relate to a specific research topic—a cancer or autism bond. Others could be as small as a bond for a single university system’s research."

The outcome would have a valuable effect on research and supplement declining public funds. As more charities emerge with convictions stronger than their coffers, this tool would give them the ability to make their mission go further. As smaller companies look to advance a technology without the financial clout of a powerhouse, ideas such as this could allow their investments to do more. And with fewer public funds flowing into the research community, this tool would allow discovery to go further.

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