If Medical Research Isn’t Doing What You Want, Fund Your Own

A site called Consano lets people put up their own money to pay for research into innovative breast cancer treatments.

If Medical Research Isn’t Doing What You Want, Fund Your Own
[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

After Molly Lindquist went through what she calls her “breast cancer experience,” she was left with wanting to do something about the disease. The Oregon-resident has two young daughters, and the thought that they might have to go through the same thing was scary.


“I came out of it wanting to make it better for them,” she says. “I’m a first degree relative, so they are two to three times more likely to develop breast cancer. Of all the crappy things that happened, that was top of the list of things I wanted to change.”

By making it “better,” Lindquist means funding research that might one day fundamentally alter the cancer calculus. Though it may be a long way off, she wants to see a vaccine or genetic therapy that could actually halt the disease. That’s the only thing, she says, that can really help.

But when she looked at ways that she, as an outsider, could give money to researchers, she wasn’t encouraged. “There wasn’t an easy way to connect directly with research without a lot of going to individual institutions and tracking down the researcher, and coordinating with development offices,” she says. “And, with the foundations, I personally wanted a little more control over where the money was going.”

After a conversation with friends at a Memorial Day barbecue in 2012, Lindquist came up with Consano, a crowd-funding platform for medical research. The site currently lists eight projects from three institutions–OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, in Oregon, University of California, San Francisco, and UW Medicine, in Seattle–and allows people to make donations directly to research endeavors. Like on Kickstarter, they also get feedback on progress.

“It’s a great way to keep donors up to date, but in a very seamless and easy way, given that researchers are already super-crunched for time,” she says. The scientists just have to enter a little summary of the work, and the site updates all the people who’ve given money.

At the moment, Consano (meaning “to heal” in Latin) mostly features research into (uterine, esophageal, and ovarian) cancers. But Lindquist wants to broaden the base to include other diseases, including illnesses that don’t have the awareness that breast cancer does. Another 12 institutions will submit projects over the next two months, she says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.