Speeding up Medical Breakthroughs
Donors have grown weary of funding basic scientific research, only to see discoveries languish in the academic gristmill. Too often, researchers don’t share their finds with others as their work undergoes review for publication, a process that can take years.
Despite the “flood of new knowledge in the biosciences,” the Wall Street Journal notes, there has been “a slowdown instead of an expected acceleration in innovative medical therapies reaching patients.” Increasingly, funders like Scott Johnson, founder of the Myelin Repair Foundation are insisting on “translational research,” whereby researchers immediately share discoveries with colleagues.
Johnson suffers from multiple sclerosis and decided three years ago to look full-time for a cure. He identified the top five scientists in the field, gathered them together, and promised to raise funds for research if the five would work as a team, instead of individually. Though hesitant, the five agreed.
Their universities signed intellectual property-sharing agreements, and today the scientists estimate that by 2009 they’ll “identify a drug target and find a promising compound,” some 10 to 15 years sooner than would occur had there been no collaboration. “To make progress against this disease,” Johnson tells the Journal, “you have to do things differently.”
Take My Gift, Please
A recent New Yorker tells the poignant tale of Joe Temeczko, a Polish immigrant who came to America after doing time in both German and Russian prisoner-of-war camps in World War II. He got a job cleaning the Statue of Liberty before relocating to Minneapolis, where he worked as a handyman and somehow managed to amass $1.4 million.
A few days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he told his attorney he wanted to give his money to New York. “So much suffering,” he told his attorney, “maybe my money can help.” He died two weeks later. The money was earmarked for two purposes: Replacing the “decrepit asphalt sports field with synthetic turf” in Columbus Park, and “the Daffodil Project, which is responsible for getting two and a half million daffodil bulbs planted around the city to honor the victims of September 11th.”
The money remains unspent. Converting the asphalt to turf has for various reasons irked Chinese residents around Columbus Park, who have blocked progress on the project. As for the daffodils, the money “is still with the city’s Office of Management and Budget, a bureaucracy even more formidable” than the one holding the funds for the park resurfacing. The city did, however, “arrange for Temeczko’s ashes to be scattered in Manhattan. It was against city practice but hardly, given the backdrop of September 11th, un-American.”
New Tool for Giving
The Wall Street Journal reports that a new vehicle for giving-the Donor Managed Investment Account, or DMI Account, has effectively received a green light from the IRS. “Aimed at investment-savvy philanthropists, the strategy allows donors to give money to a charity but still manage the assets for as long as 10 years after making the gift.” Among the advantages for both donor and recipient, “Donors get a tax deduction-as much as 50 percent of adjusted gross income-for the year that they make the donation. What’s more, the gift grows tax-free during the period that donors manage it.”
The technique was developed by Winklevoss Consultants, and it “isn’t for everyone,” the Journal writes. “It’s best for sophisticated, hands-on donors who have the time and inclination to steer or track their gift’s investment for a number of years.” So far, Skidmore College in New York is the only organization that has implemented the new accounts.
Second Chance Takes Flight
The Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black squadron of fighter pilots during World War II, overcame enormous social and political obstacles to serve their country. Today, Negro Airmen International-founded by a man who trained the Tuskegee Airmen-aims to help other black youths find a new beginning in the skies by operating New Hope Flight Training Academy in Florida, reports the Miami Herald. With a grant from the Marion Park Deaver Foundation, the academy accepts young blacks who’ve had minor scrapes with the law into flight training. The group hopes to train 100 pilots over the course of the grant. “God bless this place,” says a former Florida truck driver now aiming for a career in the airline industry. “It’s the best place I’ve heard of to help poor people like myself.” Once these young men “start flying,” says the president of Negro Airmen International, “it gives [them] a new vision.”
Awards Front and Center
With the holidays comes awards season in the nonprofit world. Two of the more prestigious are the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize and the Broad Prize. Each carries a $1 million purse. The Hilton Prize was awarded this year to Heifer International, a group that aims to help the hungry and poor “with a cow instead of a cup of milk.” In business for over 60 years, Heifer International attracts donors whose contributions are used to purchase cows, rabbits, llamas, and other beasts that are then given to individuals in both Third World and other nations, including 38 states here in America. Recipients use the animals for farming, food, or to start small businesses, allowing them to move toward self-sufficiency. Founded by an Indiana farmer in 1944, Heifer began by restocking farms devastated by World War II.
The Broad Prize, now in its third year, is presented to the “most outstanding urban school districts” in America. This year’s winner is the Garden Grove Unified School District in California. Ranked as the eighty-seventh largest school district in America, Garden Grove USD in 2004 saw 94 percent of its 49,809 students meet their Adequate Yearly Progress targets established under federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Fully one-half of the district’s students are Hispanic, while 30 percent are Asian American, and 1 percent are African American; 59 percent of the district’s students qualify for free/ reduced price lunch.
Most interesting is that fully half of the district’s students are designated as “English Language Learners.” Currently, 78 percent of its students graduate; the national average as reported by the College Board is 70 percent. Garden City USD will receive $500,000, which goes directly to graduating seniors for college scholarships, while each of the four runner-ups-Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Boston Public Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, and Norfolk Public Schools in Virginia-receive $125,000.