February 2017 - In This Issue:
CEO CORNER
The funding 
environment
for academic research

By Christian Braemer
Cofounder & CEO, Benefunder  

It's been a rough decade for public funding for research and development. As a percentage of GDP, federal spending on research and development has dropped from just over 1 percent in 2005 to about three-quarters of 1 percent in 2015. That may sound like a trivial difference, but for the thousands of academic researchers that rely on government funds to conduct their work, it equates to more time writing grant applications and less time doing what they do best - research. 

While only one-fifth of all federal grant applications ultimately receive funding, the true likelihood of success is much lower for the vast majority of researchers, as about half of all grants go to research labs that are already receiving funding from the federal government. That leaves many promising but unproven research projects fighting for a small piece of the pie. For  up-and-coming researchers trying to establish themselves in academia, the funding landscape could hardly be more bleak. 

Perhaps most startlingly, these trends don't even begin to account for the seismic shifts taking place at the top of the US government. While it's still too early to confidently predict future levels of federal funding for research and development, it's likely that there are big changes underway for many recipients of government grants.   
    
This is a puzzling development when we consider that the US economy has been historically driven by innovation. Consider that half of all wealth generated in the United States since World War II can be traced back to a research grant. From computers to lasers, research fuels the innovation that keeps our society and economy moving forward. As far as social and financial return, there is no investment more worthwhile than research. 
 
Fortunately, there's a group of people well-positioned to take up the mantle of supporting academic research - philanthropists. Reviving the patron funding model, the givers of the world have an opportunity to propel the next generation of great innovators and thinkers. 
RESEARCHER SPOTLIGHT
Using physics to fight infections

Biofilm infections are the leading cause of death for cystic fibrosis patients and cost the US healthcare systems billions of dollars annually. 

Dr. Vernita Gordon, assistant professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin, uses a physical approach to identify new potential therapies for combatting biofilm infection. A recent publication by Dr. Gordon and her colleagues discusses the potential for improving immune system response to infection by weakening the physical structure of biofilms

Read the full-text article here
A mission to scan every fish species in the world
University of Washington professor Adam Summers has a bold goal: to catalog 3-D images for every known fish species. Using a small computed tomography scanner, Summers hopes to scan all 33,000 species of fish within a couple of years. These three dimensional images are available for free in an online database. 

Read more about Dr. Summers' mission 
Welcome to Benefunder! 
We are excited to welcome the following researchers to the Benefunder platform.




Welcome to the Benefunder Impact Report,
a monthly newsletter created to inform and inspire. Our mission is to help create a new marketplace for planned giving, while fueling innovation.  
BENEFUNDER BITS
PRIME Coalition and Benefunder partner to headline Impact Investing Forum in San Diego
PRIME Coalition is a non-profit backed by a group of large mostly private foundations that supports impact investments in the clean energy space. PRIME executive director Sarah Kearney will share how her organization facilitates impact investments in promising early stage companies through program related investments (PRIs) from non-profits. Sarah will share best practices that private and community foundations can implement to develop mission-related investment strategies.

CONNECT  is graciously hosting this half day event on  March 3rd  in their San Diego office. Benefunder community members are welcome to register at the link below for no charge by using the code Guest

Click here for more details and event registration.

Unable to attend, but interested in learning more about alternative investments out of a foundation or donor advised fund? Please reach out to our team at  info@benefunder.com
UCSD researcher receives funding to further autism, PTSD treatment research

Dr. Kevin Murphy of the University of California, San Diego received a gift from an anonymous donor to support his investigation of Magnetic Resonance Therapy (MRT) as a potential treatment for a variety of neurological disorders. 

Read more about Dr. Murphy's innovative work here

Benefunder Researcher Receives Prestigious Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research
Yale researcher  Arthur L. Horwich was one of three recipients of the 2016 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research . Horwich is Sterling Professor of Genetics and professor of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.

In his work on the cause of motor neuron dysfunction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Horwich focuses on chaperone-mediated protein folding. Understanding the etiology of ALS will hopefully lead to new treatments for this lethal disease. 

Read more about the 2016 Alband Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research here

IN THE NEWS
Benefunder signs milestone 10th agreement with leading academic institution
An institutional agreement signed in January with Princeton University marked the 10th such agreement between Benefunder and a leading academic institution. These relationships provide donors access to a broader range of research programs while allowing institutions to facilitate the inclusion of their faculty on the Benefunder platform.
What can bison DNA tell us about the first human migration to the Americas?
 
The migration of early humans to the Americas has been one of the most widely debated topics in science over the past decade, and Dr. Beth Shapiro of the University of California, Santa Cruz and her colleagues have introduced a crucial piece of evidence to the debate. 

By analyzing the mitochondrial DNA of 
ancient bison fossils, a major prey of human  hunters, Shapiro and her team have calculated the timing for the opening of an ice-free corridor in Alaska that first allowed human migration to North America more than 10,000 years ago.
To learn more about our Charitable Innovation Fund, please contact Tom Paparatto at tpaparatto@benefunder.org