“This solution helps close the gap for potential and promising, but unfunded projects.” – Bill Gates
Name: Cindy Wu & Denny Luan
Location: New York City
Specialty: Co-Founders of Experiment
How do you feel about funding scientific research, particularly medical research? How efficient, effective and fair is the grant system in deploying billions of taxpayer dollars? Are funds targeted towards diseases proportional to their occurrence in patient populations? Are the influences of disease specific non-profit groups helpful or hurtful? Are the interests and activities of biomedical companies aligned with the needs of you, and your patients?
Well, if you think there’s room for some serious improvement, today’s episode is for you.
Cindy Wu was a young undergraduate student at the University of Washington, working on a way to modify an enzyme treatment for anthrax, using a videogame. (which, by the way, is a heck of a lot more than I was doing in college) Eager to find funding for her idea, Cindy approached her professor. “Cindy, [he responded] the system doesn’t fund people like you…It only funds tenured professors.” Although he ended up helping her by sharing money from one of his own research grants, Cindy had taken her first glance at the huge world of underfunded, and undiscovered science.
Cindy wanted to do something, but she needed help. She discussed the problem with her friend, Denny Luan, a fellow student with a software background. The amazing solution they came up with was pitched to silicon valley investors in 2013, at Y Combinator. That three minute pitch brought in 1.2 million dollars in initial startup funds, and Experiment.com, a unique crowd funding platform for scientific research was born.
Like early stage investing, it’s easy to see this space as early stage research. Bill Gates has described Experiment as a, “solution [that] helps close the gap for potential and promising, but unfunded projects.” Most research in gap can be funded by as little as 5 to 10 thousand dollars!
We know what you’re thinking. 5-10 grand? Maybe for a university science fair, but certainly not for legitimate medical research. As we’re seeing though, technologies such as CRISPR gene editing, 3D printing and artificial intelligence are already lowering the costs and barriers to researchers in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. This will only continue, and companies like Experiment are leading the way into this undiscovered country. With that said, we’re happy to bring you the founders of Experiment, Cindy Wu and Denny Luan….
Links and Resources:
Y Combinator: Profile of Cindy Wu: http://www.femalefounderstories.com/cindy-wu.html
How can you get started? http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/10/thinking-crowdfunding-your-science-study-suggests-some-tips
Forbes Article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQgTo0dqteA