Department of Medicine 2016 Tech Challenge

New Uses of Information Technology to Advance the Missions of the Department of Medicine

Crowdfunding Research

Idea Status: 

Tech Challenge

Problems:  as highlighted via

1)      The buying power of the NIH dropped by ~$5 billion between 2003 and 2013 due to inflation.

2)      Paylines are 10%-14% for NIH dropping from 22% a decade ago

Solution:  Let’s crowdfund research.

Proposal:  Create a program to allow investigators to directly solicit crowdfunding support for their research projects.   Similar to Indiegogo and Kickstarter but for UCSF vetted scientific research.

This is a program that will supplement research support for investigators via a comprehensive crowdfunding platform.  This will involve a combination of mentorship and scientific advisory from senior researchers, crowdfunding from users and industry/venture capital, support from Department of Medicine (DOM) divisions, discounts with UCSF campus life for merchandise, marketing via UCSF branding, and other stakeholders.  A DOM crowdfunding platform will also provide a social networking component for investigators to provide updates on their research directly to funders as well as provide contact information for their labs via social media (twitter, facebook, instagram, linkedin, etc.).  These updates increase the potential for additional support after initial funding has been completed and increase visibility and transparency for labs.


1)      Investigators work with their chiefs/mentors to put together a brief one page proposal for posting to the DOM crowdfunding page.  They then upload their research proposal to the page for review.

2)      Submissions are reviewed by a DOM committee (e.g. senior investigators, industry experts, UCSF DOM leadership, DOM strategic management) for appropriateness and viability for crowdfunding.

3)      Accepted proposals then receive design and video support from DOM to create a unique crowdfunding page on the DOM platform.  Similar to  They also receive either matching division support or discounts to UCSF DOM merchandise for different tiers of pledged support (unique research t-shirt for $35 pledge, unique hat for $50 pledge, etc.)  This is subsidized by UCSF Campus Life who can assist with design and may provide close to at-cost pricing.

4)      If funding level is hit, the project will be funded and funds will be set up as unique gift accounts and used in support of the PI’s research (up to 10% for salary support).  A 5% gift account fee can be assessed.


1)      Benefits for an individual funder?

  1. Funds will be raised via a non-profit entity and will be tax deductible.  Also unique merchandize like t-shirts, pins, etc., that are associated with the research labs.  (e.g. #SmithCancerLab)
  2. Benefits of putting funds directly into research without exorbitant overhead costs as well as knowing that the dollars will go to a world-class researcher whose work and potential for success has been vetted by others at UCSF.

2)      Benefits for an industry/VC funder?

  1. In addition to potential tax breaks, industry contributors get a chance to invest in the research of investigators who may one day take their research private.  Downstream, these industry/VC funders will have an early association with investigators who may wish to collaborate with the same industry partners who helped support their research careers.

3)      Benefits for PI?

  1. Funding and exposure for research.
  2. A platform for future funding as well as potential collaboration from other researchers
  3. Potential for higher level collaboration with industry/VC as research progresses.
  4. Creates a mechanism for PIs to solicit direct funding for their research from friends/family/others.

4)      Benefits for DOM/UCSF?

  1. Increased funding for investigators
  2. Visibility for specific research
  3. Social networking for research
  4. Leverages positives of the tech and social awareness climate and the current desire for innovation while ensuring research integrity

Draft budget:

$15k website and platform

$15-20k video production costs (for individual submissions)

$15k mobile

$10k marketing

$10k HIPAA compliant hosting and basic support for one year


Thanks for this excellent idea. Can you detail how this is different from the existing UCSF crowdfunding options:





Hi Mitchell,

Certainly.  The other platforms seem somewhat general and are not specifically for medical research.  Additionally, it doesn't seem as if proposals put forth on those sites undergo review from research experts before being posted.  The platform I'm proposing is specific to the research community and the proposals submitted will be first vetted by a research council before the information is then broken down in layperson's terms for posting (we'd work with approved submissions to try to break down the science and essentially use whiteboard animation/other media to explain what the idea is to the public).  This is similar to but even that site does not have a review before proposals are posted to the site.  By creating our platform in-house and coupling it with both the UCSF Medicine brand and the expertise of our own research council, donors/funders/industry will know that proposals on the site have been vetted and are being put forth after careful review.  I think they will be more likely to contribute in that instance since they won't have a page full of proposals to look at, but instead ~5 initiatives that have the backing of the Department of Medicine.  I think if we can show show proof of concept with a DOM-centric page, we can later shift the focus onto the division websites and embad platfoms there and then have the highest trending proposals pull onto the main DOM site.  Hope this helps!

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