George Painter in his Atlanta Lab (DRIVE)

Cre­ative or un­eth­i­cal? Re­searchers’ Covid-19 Go­FundMe cam­paign spurs crit­ics

It had been a busi­ness pro­fes­sor’s idea, back be­fore Christ­mas, when the most in­fec­tious threat fac­ing the US was a po­ten­tial­ly harsh flu sea­son. DRI­VE In­no­va­tions, a non-prof­it biotech found­ed by a pi­o­neer­ing HIV re­searcher at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty, was look­ing for new ways of rais­ing mon­ey and draw­ing press. Charles Goetz, who stud­ied en­tre­pre­neur­ship, sug­gest­ed Go­FundMe.

What ap­peared on­line three months lat­er had the smooth­ness of a VC pitch and the com­mand­ing lilt of a call to arms. That was the week the coro­n­avirus moved from far-flung threat to loom­ing men­ace for many Amer­i­cans, when Vice Pres­i­dent Pence was named to head the White House task­force, the stock mar­ket suf­fered its worst fall since 2008 and the first cas­es of un­known ori­gin ap­peared on the West Coast — a sign the virus was spread­ing with­in the US. Go­FundMe put DRI­VE’s cam­paign as the “Ur­gent Cause” at the cen­ter of its home­page. They promised a tan­ta­liz­ing an­ti­dote.

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