The Fund, designed to “think outside the box” in a smart, creative way,
has supported the work of Hopkins’finest scientists, including (from left),
David Berman, Angelo De Marzo, Bill Nelson, and Edward Schaeffer.
After 43 Pilot Projects, We’re 28 Fully Funded Grants and 44 Publications Closer to Finding the Cure
Their ideas are promising, new, creative — yet unlikely to be funded. Too risky; in today’s research climate, money is just too tight to bet on the unknown. Grant committees often find themselves in the position, not unlike Hollywood moguls, of putting their money in “sequels” — renewing funding for established investigators, safe risks, sound investments. And this means, increasingly, that young scientists find themselves in the Catch-22 position of needing money to support their research, but not being able to get it because they don’t have a proven track record — and not being able to get a grant so they can build a track record in the first place.
At Johns Hopkins, five years ago, the Patrick C. Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund took a different approach. Beginning with a generous endowment, established by Walsh’s patients, their families and friends, the Fund threw open the doors for investigators throughout all of Johns Hopkins University, in any discipline. “What mattered most was that we were looking for good ideas, from the best and brightest investigators at Hopkins,” says Walsh, “who are among the finest scientific minds anywhere. And we found innovative ideas — a lot of them, and more are being submitted every year. The best of these deserve to be explored. They may work, or they may not, but if they can help us find a cure for prostate cancer, then isn’t it wonderful that we have the opportunity to give them a chance?"
The Fund, designed to “think outside the box” in a smart, creative way, is entering its sixth year of supporting new ideas.
In its five years, it has awarded $1 million a year in prostate cancer research funds — 43 grants, to researchers in seven departments: Urology, Epidemiology, Radiology-Magnetic Resonance Research and Neuroradiology, Mechanical Engineering, Comparative Medicine, Pathology, and Oncology. The work of these scientists has resulted in 44 publications, and spawned 28 fully funded grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and other agencies. (Note: All of this research has been covered in Discovery. This year’s winning research ideas are featured here; for more on past winners, please visit http://urology.jhu.edu/newsletter/.)
“This has been a win-win for everybody,” says Walsh, “and most of all, for our patients, who know that the brightest minds in the country are pursuing many promising leads, working to cure their cancer, and to prevent their sons from getting it.” None of this, he adds, would have been possible without the remarkable private support from patients, family and friends. “I am so grateful to all of you who have contributed so generously to this cause, and I want you all to know that your precious contributions have been well invested.”