When you put money into the plate at church or perhaps into the UNICEF box on Halloween, you are crowdfunding - combining your money with a lot of other people's to support a cause or organization. The question is, could this kind of funding model help pay for medical research?
"There's a very serious demand for lungs that far exceeds donor supply," said Dr. Mike Mulligan, cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Washington.
Mulligan does 50 lung transplants a year
"It's very hard to get these things to work properly, so they can be safely used," said Mulligan.
But he could do a lot more if he had more transplantable lungs.
“It's an imbalance that results in people dying on the wait list," Mulligan said.
He has to reject a lot of lungs because they are so fragile.
“These lungs are not good or bad. There is often a gray zone where they are kind of marginal," he said.
Mulligan is trying to figure out ways to use these marginal lungs and save more lives.
He thinks he knows how. He just needs money for his research.
“We're really right on the cusp of that. We've done a lot of good work, but we need to do more," said Mulligan.
To raise $50,000, Mulligan has turned to crowdfunding.
“We think that this research is important enough and close enough to being able to provide meaningful benefit in our lifetime that we need to pursue any means of funding possible because this work has to continue,” he said.
Mulligan is asking the public directly for money, using a new website Consano.org. It describes Mulligan's research project and tells you how much he's trying to raise. A donation is just a click away. There is no minimum and no overhead except for the cost of using PayPal.
"This is a direct connection that people can latch onto," said Mulligan.
Mulligan's project will be on the website for two months. There are also other projects on the site, all chosen by the team behind Consano. Researchers have to provide regular updates on their progress and how they are spending donors’ money. But mulligan says don't worry about him.
“I'm very frugal. I'm very frugal,” said Mulligan. “I'm often criticized for being so frugal."
Mulligan says If he had enough good lungs, he could perform 100 transplants a year - twice as many as he does now.
If you are interested in donating directly to Dr. Mulligan’s research, go to Consano.org to learn more information.