Calling Willing Philanthropists: To Leave A Legacy in Medical Innovation, Consider "Investing in Failure"

 

No one seeks out failure, let alone likes it. Yet paradoxically, the key to success in medical innovation arguably rests on failure, and the learning it represents. The financial luminary and philanthropist Michael Milken once stated, “50% or more of the growth of all the world’s economies has come from breakthroughs in medical research.” Such breakthroughs have contributed to longer life spans and a better quality of life enabling greater workforce productivity that fuels global economies.

However, advances in medical innovations come at a huge cost to society in the form of money, time and risk. Developing a single new medicine for market approval takes over a decade and costs $2.9B, of which $2.6B is the estimated cost of failure. This is because for every 5,000 drug compounds discovered, only five actually reach clinical trials, and then only one of these five receives FDA approval.

Paradoxical as it may seem, failure is part and parcel of progress and wealth generation. Yet our current R&D ecosystem in the field of biomedical advancement does not incentivize testing new or risky ideas for fear of failure. Nor do we reward those whose ideas have ended in negative results where key lessons could have been learned for the next phase of innovation. As it stands, too many potential health innovations disappear in the “valley of death,” that metaphorical space where innovations wither through lack of funding. Likewise, there are myriad important failures from which clues and lessons could have been learned that if capitalized upon could have benefited society but have gone unreported because no one is incentivized to share them, and few places exist to report on them.

If society is to effectively tackle the threat of human disease through medical innovations, embracing failure as part of our culture of innovation, is critical. Yet funding failure is not practical, or even feasible, for investors in the R&D ecosystem, who expect a return on their investment, be they institutional investors, angel investors, impact investors, state investors or pharmaceutical companies. For these entities, picking the “winners” is paramount to their survival and growth. Yet, investors are bypassing an opportunity to support a goldmine of intelligence and knowledge to aid society as a whole, while positioning to make money in turn. The question then becomes: Who should invest in failure? The answer is charitable donors - big or small, private or public, with a keen interest in advancing medical treatment, even at the cost of failure.

Sound Affects is a new player in the R&D ecosystem that caters to the interests of donors of all kinds (www.soundaffects.org). As a 501(c)3 cancer charity, its purpose is to encourage biomedical innovators to test their technologies, learn from their failures and publicly share outcomes. Its model uses a crowdfunding platform that enables innovators to access a non-dilutive raise through charitable donations of crowdfunding supporters. Like many other crowdfunding platforms, interested donors are encouraged to contribute directly to innovators who are developing promising medical solutions that they find personally and intellectually appealing. In return, innovators report to donors on how their dollar was used to advance the technology, what outcomes transpired (positive or negative), and what steps need to be taken moving forward. Sound Affects believes if replicated at scale, it can help change how R&D is done to benefit the world.

If you are looking to impact positive change of great proportions, to save, extend and improve lives of our global communities, to augment growth of global economies for future generations, then consider investing in failure.

To learn more about Sound Affects, please contact Executive Director, Mona Jhaveri at mona@soundaffects.org.