Project Marilyn is looking to crowdfund a patent-free anti-cancer drug.
We've seen crowdfunding jump the shark when Zack Danger Brown raised over $50,000 to make potato salad; now, one group is seeking to raise the same amount of money to crowdfund cancer research.
Specifically, Project Marilyn is looking for funds to test an anti-cancer drug called 9-deoxysibiromycin, or 9DS. This drug has shown promise for treating kidney, breast, and skin cancers, but because it was not patented, drug companies didn't see funding expensive clinical trials as a profitable investment. Why take all the risk and investment costs upon yourself, when other companies can then swoop in and produce the drug that you proved works?
9DS is not revolutionary - like other anti-cancer drugs, it works by inhibiting cell proliferation, since cancer is essentially uncontrolled cell reproduction. The Project Marilyn campaign is seeking $50,000 to take 9DS through a necessary experiment called a xenograft before it can enter clinical trials.
With 17 days left to go, the project has raised $16,401, and interested parties can pledge as little as $1 toward the goal. One reason this effort hasn't received more funding may lie in the very nature of scientific experimentation: positive results are not guaranteed. Even if the campaign raises $1,000,000, the results may ultimately prove the drug to be ineffective.
"It's very likely this will fail (for both social and scientific reasons)," writes Dr. Isaac Yonemoto on Hacker News. Dr. Yonemoto is a lead researcher on Project Marilyn and the prime mover behind IndieSci. "At the very least though, if it fails for scientific reasons, since experiments will be openly disclosed (unlike the siloed process at pharma r&d), we will learn something - even if that something is, 'don't try making this drug again.'"
Maybe this is just me, but there's something altogether backwards about a world in which the internet is willing to pledge $50,000 toward a practical joke while people trying to cure cancer are struggling to raise half that amount. What do you think?