- As the Foundation marks its 15th anniversary, we celebrate having funded 200 research projects.
- The Foundation’s funding distribution and partnerships have made a major impact in the worldwide clinical adoption of focused ultrasound.
- We thank the many generous donors who have made this milestone possible.
Since its inception in 2006, the Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s research funding program has grown steadily from awarding two projects in 2007 (the first funding year) to 22 projects in 2021. In our 15th year, we reached a notable milestone: the 200th research project was funded this year. The power of this investment in the technology is evidenced by the incredible growth of the entire field of focused ultrasound. With the help of our donors, the Foundation continues to fund the research that has been most critical to accelerating the field forward.
From its humble beginnings to current breadth and depth, the growth of our research awards program has been driven by the Foundation’s strategic plan and donor investments. Connecting with funding partners has allowed the Foundation to further expand its reach. Read more to learn about how our funding distribution, partnerships, and donor education have made a major impact in the worldwide clinical adoption of focused ultrasound.
From Proof-of-Concept to Human Clinical Trials
Over the past 15 years, the Foundation’s research award program has transitioned from funding a majority of proof-of-concept, preclinical projects to investing a larger percentage of funding in worldwide first-in-human clinical trials. We fund a full spectrum of projects, including discovery, technical, preclinical, translational, clinical, and even patient registries – but we also continue to expand our areas of research interest. To match the exponential growth of focused ultrasound indications, mechanisms of action, and applications, our research awards program has also grown, and expanded into new funding areas, including cancer immunotherapy, veterinary studies, and pediatrics. Over the span of 15 years, the Foundation has established ten programs through which it directs research dollars.
To date, the Brain Clinical Program has received the most funding, because noninvasive treatment of the brain is the vanguard target for focused ultrasound. All clinical trials, on average, require considerably more funding than preclinical projects, so the transition of the field into extensive clinical trials has led to much of the growth of the research awards program. More than 60 institutions and 159 principal investigators around the world have been funded.
The Foundation’s funding priorities have changed over time based on unmet needs in the field and input from the scientific team and disease-specific scientific advisory boards. The majority of the Foundation’s funding comes from private individuals and foundations. We are grateful for their support and the important role they play in advancing this technology that could one day impact millions of people.
The Foundation continues to hold the highest rankings on Charity Navigator and Guidestar – online tools that assess nonprofits’ financial and organizational transparency – and we were recognized as one of Charity Navigator’s “10 Best Medical Research Organizations in America.”
Follow-on Funding is a Major Goal
Proof-of-concept projects that are initially funded by the Foundation often lead to “follow-on funding” from government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or other foundations, and research organizations. Empowering researchers to produce initial data that leads to larger, long-term, and sustainable grant funding is a major goal of our research awards program. Therefore, we closely track follow-on funding for our awardees. This metric allows us to gauge the long-term impact of our support.
To increase the amount of funding for projects, the Foundation has developed strong partnerships with the Cancer Research Institute, Melanoma Research Alliance, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Awareness, Epilepsy Foundation, and other disease-specific organizations and Foundations. For example, Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo have been a generous supporter of our Veterinary Program projects. Besides increasing the amount spent on research, these collaborations also raise awareness and strengthen support for follow-on funding.
Partnering with other organizations to fund focused ultrasound research allows the Foundation to be the best stewards of our donor’s generous support. It also allows us to ensure that what we fund is most relevant to each disease-specific community.
Streamlining the Funding Decision Process
In 2020, the Foundation began analyzing and developing new strategies for evaluating and funding research project applications. We analyzed past funded projects, determined future funding priorities, and matched research awards with priority projects. Creating a more strategic approach has enabled the development team to secure specific donations for brain, cancer immunotherapy, pancreas, and veterinary studies. We now assess the annual performance of our research award process. A 10-year analysis by the Foundation’s Associate and Open Science Manager, Charlie Manning confirmed that changes implemented in early 2020 have shortened the decision-making process by more than half, from an average of 35 to 14 days.
Donor Education and Involvement
Donors not only fund these projects; they are also making educated decisions about how to invest their philanthropic contributions. For educational purposes, the Foundation’s development team writes case statements on each of the Foundation’s priority funding areas. For example, we currently have disease-specific campaigns for cancer immunotherapy, breast cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Additional campaigns are in development for pediatric indications and the veterinary program.
To set priorities, the development team convenes campaign focus groups where donors and other stakeholders who have an interest in a particular indication meet to provide input on areas of mutual interest. These collaborations help the Foundation generate new ideas for engaging partners and donors to help fund research that advances our understanding of focused ultrasound’s role in the treatment armamentarium.
The Foundation’s ultimate goal is widespread clinical adoption of focused ultrasound. We look forward to the day when we can close the doors, turn out the lights, and celebrate the impact of accelerating a field that is changing the lives of millions of people around the world. Until that day, we will continue to find and engage with donors who share our vision, wisely invest their contributions, and fund the most promising and impactful research projects – both alone and preferably with our partners.
Apply for Funding
Researchers should visit the dedicated “For Researchers” section of our website to learn more about our research funding programs and to consider submitting an abstract for their project.
Focused Ultrasound Study for Pets Funded by Petco Foundation, Blue Buffalo May 2019