Frequently Asked Questions

Why a scientist-initiated, non-profit startup foundation for basic research?

We want to provide a new perspective on ways of doing research. All our advisers are experts on mathematics, computer science or areas of medicine and biology which need high-level complex mathematical research. This kind of work is not very expensive, but results are unpredictable and the work requires high concentration and uninterrupted work, free of other career concerns. For scholars desirous to undertake such work, we offer mentorship and feedback from an expert group of advisers with stellar records in the field.

What are your projects?

The range of our projects is rather diverse. They arise from our ongoing work which raises pressing questions not solvable by conventional approaches. We also tackle questions that are novel (mathematical modeling of drug resistance) or timely (immunotherapy of cancer) or underresearched (enhanced detail memory in autism) and will continue to look for the most critical and most rewarding questions to answer.

What does this mean for scholars?

Most of our advisers hold university positions and direct groups of postdocs and students. But complex, interdisciplinary, high impact projects require a different set-up. Large foundations do not offer the focus needed, grant agencies are too conservative. Many agencies look for out-of-the-box thinking and high-risk projects, but they operate in a way that supports only highly conventional careers. Stipends are low compared with other opportunities. Too many highly gifted scholars don’t fit into the constraints, or face early decisions between academia, entrepreneurship, or commercial research. We offer an alternative.

How are projects executed?

A project involves a theoretical (mathematical, computational) analysis of experimental biological results. The work is done in close collaboration with an experimental lab, which hosts the scholar and provides a discussion group. However, a specific lab’s results are usually only significant on the basis of an established knowledge base. Often bioinformatic databases will be important as well.

Where do projects come from?

Projects are often initiated by the scientific advisers associated with the foundation, which will also serve as mentors for the scholar(s). However, any scholar with a Ph.D., usually in the quantitative sciences, can address a scientific adviser with a significant, innovative project design, and ask for mentorship. If a mentor can be found, such a project is evaluated together with mentor-initiated projects.

How are projects evaluated?

Projects are evaluated for impact (potential to move a field forward), originality (not a copy of other work being done), and feasibility (experimental lab, duration and skill set matched to a scholar’s ability). This is being done by the scientific advisers in a collective process of decision-making, outside experts may be consulted. Accepted projects are then ranked and made available for donor funding, crowd sourcing, or, where suitable, grant application.

May I decide which project I want to fund?

Emphatically yes. We are interested in involving ‘citizen-scientists’ who take a close interest in scientific developments beyond their own expertise. There is usually a small list of evaluated projects available. Also, since our work is related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of specific diseases (e.g. autism, addiction, cancer, cardiac disease) donors may want to fund projects in a specific area of concern.

Are there opportunities for smaller-scale donations?

Yes. Besides being able to contribute to the general fund, individuals who want to fund something specific may do this through a, possibly named, award for a scholar. This may involve support for travel, for publication of an exceptional master’s thesis, additional software engineering support for a promising approach, recognition of remarkable results in a specific field, etc. Ask for details.

How about the entrepreneurial aspect?

Being located in Silicon Valley, we have realized that progress in biologically and medically relevant software requires significant intellectual investment, often beyond a Ph.D.. However, traditional postdoc work is not geared towards letting scholars continue to develop their own approaches to evaluate the commercial potential. We support scholars who want to become entrepreneurs as well as academics, and let them decide.