Accelerating scientific discovery and the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments
In the race to find COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, there’s an unprecedented need for scientific exploration and discovery and fast. Fast Grants has developed an innovative model to expedite research critically needed to save lives and safely reopen economies.
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Though significant inroads have been made to advance our understanding of how the novel coronavirus spreads and encouraging progress in the development of vaccines and treatments is underway, there are still many unknowns. We need to speed up the pace of scientific discovery in this area now more than ever, but the current systems for funding research do not meet this urgent need. Most mainstream methods of science funding can take six to nine months, if not longer. Studies estimate that top researchers spend 25-50 percent of their time writing applications for grants. Government funding can be complex and restrictive, which makes it less suitable for experimentation, and private-sector funding only comes in once there is a viable solution that can be commercialized.
Fast Grants has created and is deploying a highly-credible model that accelerates funding for the development of treatments and vaccines, and furthers scientific understanding of COVID-19. Fast Grants targets projects that demand greater speed and flexibility than traditional funding methods can offer and will accelerate scientific discoveries that can have an immediate impact. Additionally, Fast Grants will provide follow-on funding for promising early-stage discoveries. Grants range from $10k-$500k and cover ten categories of COVID-19 science research: diagnostics; virology; biology of virus-host interactions; structural biology and drug design; drug development and screening; immunology; antibody therapeutics, vaccine development, randomized control trials, and clinical and epidemiological research. Over the next six months, Fast Grants will catalyze 80 to 115 research projects, accelerate timelines by as much as six to nine months, and, in many cases, support projects that would otherwise go unfunded. This will expedite research critically needed to save lives and safely reopen economies.
Fast Grants will combine a rigorous review process with speed; their application is designed to take 30 minutes and provide a response within 48 hours. With Audacious funding, they will launch a second open call where they will look to recruit the top scientists across a variety of disciplines, specifically publicizing the funding to women and scientists of color. Applications will then be rigorously and rapidly reviewed by a team of 20 diverse, anonymous biomedical scientists from leading institutions. After a funding decision is made, funding commitments are dispersed as quickly as universities can process them – usually within a week. Fast Grants will also identify current projects making significant progress to provide follow up funding. Through an online community, they will share results and track progress while also connecting scientists to other funding platforms and research teams that can further their work.
Why will this succeed?
Since March, Fast Grants has distributed $22M to fund 127 projects, across a broad range of scientific disciplines. Fast Grants recipients are already making encouraging headway. One grantee, Dr. Ron Levi of Stanford, developed an mRNA-based vaccine for SARS-CoV-2n. Within two months of receiving a Fast Grant, Dr. Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins initiated the first outpatient trial for alpha-blockers, typically used for blood pressure, as a prophylactic against COVID-19. At Oxford, Dr. Alain Townsend identified and cloned a new neutralizing antibody that binds ten times better than previously identified variants and is now on a pathway to preclinical studies. Dr. Eva Harris at UC Berkeley launched a longitudinal population study that will demystify community spread and identify determinants of asymptomatic infection.
I support #FastGrants housed at @mercatus, an innovative model to accelerate funding for science that will help us find vaccines, treatments, and further our understanding of COVID-19.
Fast Grants has created an innovative and highly-credible model to fast track funding for the scientific research that will help us to develop treatments and va