Sound Affects Seeks to Change Fight, Finances of War on Cancer
While many advocacy groups set out to raise money for cancer research, a first-of-its-kind charitable crowdfunding platform, called Sound Affects, has set out to change how the war on cancer is fought and financed, all with support from musical talents.
The idea was born out of the organization’s founder and executive director Mona S. Jhaveri’s experience as a cancer researcher and biotech entrepreneur at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
In the early 2000’s, Jhaveri was part of a small team that discovered a potential anti-cancer agent for ovarian cancer. But in the biotech industry, one of the biggest challenges lies in raising funds to advance a new therapy from early clinical development to later phase trials seeking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
“While there are many government and philanthropic pools of money in support of cancer researchers at academic organizations, we realized these funding sources were not available for biotech entrepreneurs who are bringing innovations to market,” Jhaveri said in an interview with CURE.
Unfortunately, Jhaveri’s journey as a biotech entrepreneur ended with the shutdown of her company due to lack of financing. “With that, the inevitable loss of the innovation that promised to help women with ovarian cancer was the most disappointing of all,” she added.
In the biotech industry, this is called “the valley of death” – a metaphorical place where promising innovations die due to lack of funding. Frustrated and concerned for future losses, Jhaveri created Sound Affects “to help bridge the valley of death so that more promising cancer innovations make it to those who are in need,” she explained.
However, building the platform was not without its challenges. The largest of which was cultivating an educated audience. While research is key, Jhaveri stressed more is still needed. “Research does not end in cures, it ends in discoveries that need to be advanced through product development milestones like FDA approvals before anyone can benefit. This is the job of biotech.”
To educate the public and raise awareness about this need, Jhaveri chose music as her medium. “Music brings people together,” she said. “It can inspire and move the crowd. Hence, we believe musicians hold a unique power and responsibility to influence positive change.”
To this end, Sound Affects connects biotech entrepreneurs who are actively working on cancer solutions with people who wish to advance the war on cancer by directly supporting cancer innovations they care about, and amplifies that message by partnering with musical artists who support the cause.
Jhaveri explained the platform works no differently than other crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter – a corporation focused on creativity and merchandising. It begins with cancer-fighting campaigns that feature a promising innovation being developed by a biotech innovator, identified through the NCI and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.
“This could be a targeted therapy, a prevention or early detection tool, a new way to help improve the quality of life after chemo, or it could be a revolutionary idea that leap frogs all other treatments to date,” said Jhaveri. “We don’t discriminate when it comes to technology type, we want to fund innovations that are urgently needed by people suffering from cancer.”
Once a campaign is kicked off, a donor can give any dollar amount towards the campaign of their choice in exchange for a tax write off, as well as direct feedback from the biotech innovator on how the project is going – i.e. what worked, what failed and what they’ve learned.
“We are the first of its kind, empowering the public to have say in what makes it to market, whereas traditionally this has been the role of institutional investors and pharma,” said Jhaveri. “Without the public voice, innovations that surface the market tend to be those that promise the largest (return on investment) for their investors, versus those promising the greatest medical impact for cancer patients. Sound Affects wants to change this.”
When musical artists get involved, Sound Affects sets up a “crowdfunding challenge" where the artists are tasked to raise a minimum of $1,000 over a period of four weeks. This is where crowd involvement comes in. “All monies raised through Sound Affects’ partnered artists go our General Fund that serves to ‘match’ the crowd, dollar for dollar, thereby incentivizing crowd support,” said Jhaveri.
The top six artists who raise the most via their Sound Affects page are then featured in Sound Affects’ Music Beats Cancer video series, which is supported by Vevo. The first-place fundraiser even gets a meeting with a record label. “We want to help artists access more exposure while they help us raise awareness and funds,” said Jhaveri.
Through its unique blend of crowdfunding and artist involvement, Jhaveri hopes that Sound Affects is shifting the paradigm and is working towards a more democratic, transparent and peer to peer structure for fighting and financing the war on cancer.
“Our long-term vision is to become the go-to cancer charity featuring hundreds of cancer-fighting campaigns and partnering with thousands of artists worldwide to help us raise awareness and funds for a disease that we believe needs worldwide attention and support,” she said.