Venture Philanthropy Strategies to Support Translational Research

Voluntary health organizations—that is, nonprofit charitable organizations, patient advocacy groups, and foundations—have a long-standing history of providing support to those suffering from disease. Historically, this giving fell under a few key areas: buying and distributing medicine; providing food, care, and shelter to those in need; offering education; and delivering prophylactic equipment to target areas, such as mosquito nets in malaria-stricken regions. An increasing number of voluntary health organizations are looking at venture philanthropy as a critical way to advance their mission of helping patients and working to cure disease. The concept of “venture philanthropy” stems from venture capitalism, which invests money from various third-party sources in typically high-risk areas. The IOM has released a new report, Venture Philanthropy Strategies to Support Translational Research, a workshop summary that shares venture philanthropy experiences and lessons learned in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness for translational research. The workshop was convened representatives from a variety of voluntary health organizations with experience in establishing and developing translational research programs supported by venture philanthropy strategies. Participants provided valuable insight into a wide range of considerations for other voluntary health organizations who are seeking to start or develop their translational research programs. Discussions centered on best practices and lessons learned in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness in translational research. The workshop focused specifically on using venture philanthropy strategies to support “translational research,” a tricky phase in the drug development process that bridges the gap between the halls of academia and commercially funded clinical trials. Translational research is a broad term used to describe the process of translating the basic biology of a disease into real-world therapeutics in the lives of patients. Because the term is so broad, it can be difficult to bring organizational focus to the shared challenges and opportunities that a full-spectrum approach to venture philanthropy can bring.

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