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Sounds Like a Contradiction in Terms

Blogger Matt Grosso has an idea for a nonprofit drug company. The idea would be to accept contributions for testing specific drugs and bringing them to market, Grosso says. A for-profit subsidiary could be formed to move the drugs through the approval process and the members of the company could vote to contribute their dollars to a specific drug of their choice. In order to give members the best information on each candidate, a paid staff member could curate a wiki with the latest information on each candidate. "This could create an alternate route for drug startups focused on particular compounds to get their product to market," Grosso says.

In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe says the idea is worth talking about but most likely wouldn't work. The problem is that while people are likely to use their contributions to fund those "defined aims that they agree with," there's only so much defining researchers in the drug industry can do, Lowe says. A huge majority of drugs in development never make it to market, which would make it hard to convince contributors to keep sending in their money. The wiki for potential contributors might also be better in theory than practice, Lowe adds. "This is what companies try to do internally: comparing their programs by the same criteria, head to head, then determining how to resource them. 'Taint easy," he says. Besides, while investors are aware that their investments might go bad, no one wants to feel like a charitable contribution they made was wasted, he adds.

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