In response to federal funding cuts to research across the biomedical field, Georgetown University Medical Center created Partners in Research, a project that helps Georgetown researchers effectively crowdsource to raise funds for projects.

Partners in Research, founded in 2011 as a supplementary method to finance biomedical research, raised a total of $70,000 from 59 partners in 2013.

The program engages non-scientists of the Georgetown community to help raise money for research. To raise money GUMC scientists give short pitches to local residents in order to win donations for their projects. The Partners in Research Program is an initial step in the overall funding process that helps garner preliminary funds for projects by allowing researchers to gather data with the early funds. In turn, the data allows researchers to flesh out their project and continue their fundraising efforts.

“Initial funding allows [us to begin] to collect necessary preliminary data for future submission to governmental or non-profit organizations,” professor of pharmacology Juan Saavedra said. “This ‘start-up’ funding is essential for future success in grant submission.”

In order to qualify to hear scientists’ pitches, potential donors for the program are required to make a donation of at least $1000 to the GUMC. The donor is then able to review proposals by Georgetown scientists and vote for a top choice. The top two projects will each win a grant of $35,000. Donors also receive progress reports on the studies and tours of the labs.

“The partners will participate in guided visits to our laboratories, for a first-hand, on-the-job presentation of our work, the challenges we encounter and the progress we make with their support,” Saavedra said. “This is an extremely well organized program, with excellent administrative support from the GUMC.”

Projects that are presented to local residents have demonstrated unequivocal impact on the community.

“We choose a project that is readily digestible by a lay audience and has clear significance,” associate professor of pharmacology and physiology Gerard Ahern said.

“For scientists having to explain the nuts and bolts to lay people actually helps to clarify the important parts of a project. The relationship clearly benefits GUMC in terms of developing a philanthropy base.”

For researchers, the greatest impact is not monetary, but emotional and personal.

“The money has allowed us to continue a pilot project,” Ahern said. “But the fact that a bunch of people are following our research certainly adds to the excitement.”

The 2013 winners, Ahern and the team of Saavedra and David Burns, researched osteoporosis prevention and whether drugs used for treating diabetes can alleviate traumatic brain injuries, respectively.

Partners in Research grew out of Georgetown’s 2009 promotional campaign Doctors Speak Out, a series of educative quarterly luncheons in which university scientists held medical discussions. While the Doctors Speak Out campaign did not require those in attendance to make donations, attendees would often make contributions for a particular type of research discussed that day.

In 2011, the program garnered $75,000 from 63 partners; in 2012, 62 partners donated a total of $70,000.

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