Ex-J&J exec turns to crowd to fund brain disorder simulation project

The former head of Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) initiative to develop stratified drugs for Alzheimer's disease is trying to crowdfund the development of computer simulations of brain disorders. Magali Haas is seeking $299,900 for the project, which builds on a multiple sclerosis prediction model created by her nonprofit, Orion Bionetworks.

Haas began raising the money through crowdfunding site Indiegogo earlier this month. At the time of this writing, the campaign has attracted $5,354. Whatever cash is raised--regardless of whether the campaign falls short of its $299,900 target--will go toward the development of Orion MS 2.0, a scaling-up and expansion of the nonprofit's first venture into MS modeling. Orion MS 1.0 used cash from J&J's Janssen and data on 9,000 patients from Brigham and Women's Hospital, PatientsLikeMe and Accelerated Cure Project to build a computer model of MS.

For version 2.0, Orion Bionetworks wants to gather data using biosensors and other methods from 1,000 people in PatientsLikeMe's network, while also expanding the array of computational methods it uses to crunch the data. Whatever Orion Bionetworks can raise through Indiegogo is unlikely to fully fund its ambitions, but the organization thinks the cash can help it tap more traditional sources of financing. The plan is to add more members to the alliance, continue writing grant proposals and land a funding partnership.

The start of the campaign coincides with a burst of biotech crowdfunding news. Cell Therapy broke the United Kingdom's life science crowdfunding record by gathering almost £700,000 ($1.1 million) for its heart muscle repair therapy. French med tech business EyeBrain raised even more.

- view the Indiegogo page

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