Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe, has become one of Silicon Valley's biggest advocates for new forms of funding and conducting science (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED)

In­side the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar, Sil­i­con Val­ley-backed ef­fort to reimag­ine how the world funds (and con­ducts) sci­ence

It’s big days for bi­ol­o­gy.

The pan­dem­ic has seen a se­ries of very pub­lic sci­en­tif­ic break­throughs: mR­NA vac­cine, Covid an­ti­bod­ies, CRISPR as ther­a­py. The minds be­hind these ad­vance­ments have graced mag­a­zine cov­ers and re­ceived pres­ti­gious awards.

But the last two years have al­so, far more qui­et­ly, seen a se­ries of new ex­per­i­ments in how to fund the next gen­er­a­tion of sci­en­tif­ic break­throughs.

Since March 2020, in­vestors, aca­d­e­mics, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Sil­i­con Val­ley types, at least one Russ­ian bil­lion­aire and two cryp­to bil­lion­aires and, most re­cent­ly, a few West Coast uni­ver­si­ties have launched a se­ries of grant pro­grams, in­sti­tutes, NGOs and com­pa­nies hop­ing to change how life sci­ence re­search is done. Though un­af­fil­i­at­ed and vary­ing great­ly in both size and form, they have broad­ly promised to evade bu­reau­cra­cy and mis­aligned in­cen­tives and ad­vance both ba­sic and not-so-ba­sic re­search in ways they say can’t be done in ei­ther con­ven­tion­al acad­e­mia or prof­it-fo­cused biotech.

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