For decades, small, non-profit disease research organizations like FAST have modeled their funding philosophies after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where they budget their research dollars, put out a once-a-year call for applications, wait for scientists to come to them with ideas, select the most promising applications and hope they actually see results. FAST is not at all interested in this slow, linear approach to funding research and instead adopted the innovative model of venture philanthropy, recruiting a stellar in-house team to work in partnership with leading scientists on ambitious, high-risk/high-reward study designs that will ensure promising therapeutics make it from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside as quickly as possible.
Adopting a business model where we have input and control over the direction of the research, FAST assembled an in-house team of experts in science, medicine, business management, finance, law, accounting and technology. In addition to funding research grants, including over $360,000.00 in Postdoctoral Fellowships, FAST has also entered into contracted research on targeted projects with well defined milestones and deliverables.
Angelman Syndrome is currently one of the most promising fields of scientific research; relying solely on investigator-initiated research to identify and implement patient treatments is inefficient and short sighted. Additionally, true collaboration of researchers working cooperatively is the only successful approach to treatment science.
In January 2011, FAST contracted research with Dr. Edwin Weeber to test four FDA approved compounds in our mouse model. One of those compounds, Minocycline, showed promise in treating some of the symptoms of AS. With additional funding and testing, Minocycline was identified as a candidate for human clinical trial. FAST provided the funding for the trial in 2012 and we anticipate results to be published soon.
In May of 2013, FAST launched the most aggressive Angelman research initiative in history, bringing 24 researchers from 4 universities together in true collaboration to identify additional treatments and a cure for Angelman Syndrome. The FAST Integrative Research Environment (FIRE) Initiative has already identified several possible treatment candidates for human clinical trial. FAST will continue to either fund small, proof of concept trials that will better position the Angelman community for larger FDA funding and/or partner with pharmaceutical companies to bridge the so-called “Valley of Death” in translational research.
FAST has proven the success of our funding philosophy in a very short amount of time and with relatively little funding. It is not about how much you spend, but rather how you spend it. FAST is funding smarter, faster science and with proper funding, a cure is now just within our reach.