How to Bridge the Funding Gap for Scientific Breakthroughs


Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine

By Ramphis Castro

We stand on the brink of the age of personalized medicine, when such things as bespoke cancer treatments may well become commonplace. Yet, there is a disconnect between researchers undertaking vital research and venture capitalists with the money to commercialize their science.

All venture capitalists likely agree that curing cancer is a great idea; however, even sophisticated life sciences investors lack the scientific knowledge to assess which novel candidates are most likely to succeed medically or commercially.

At the same time, university academics — the people most likely to develop the vital intellectual property such as better cancer therapies and diagnostic tools — lack venture capital business experience.

The result is what’s come to be called the valley of death — a dearth of funding to validate discoveries. Up to 90 percent of research projects fail before they’re tested in humans; and, according to a report by the Milken Institute, for every 5,000 compounds tested, only five make it to clinical trials.

Three levels of funding every research entrepreneur needs to know about:

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Ramphis Castro, no relation to the Cuban leaders, is a Kauffman Fellow and founder of Mindchemy, a startup bringing technology entrepreneurship to the developing world. He is also managing director for Founder Institute NYC, the world’s largest idea-stage accelerator.