Amid a fair amount of skepticism and uncertainty — including, to some degree, by yours truly — it appears that the ALS ice bucket challenge that went viral some months ago has literally paid off:
According to Vice’s Mike Pearl, the $100 million in funding the challenge generated has led to breakthroughs in our understanding of what causes ALS and how it can be treated. Researchers now report that ALS — a fatal neurodegenerative disease that causes the muscles in the body to deteriorate — is caused by a defective protein, and stem cell therapy has shown promising results in lab tests.
Jonathan Ling, medical researcher at Johns Hopkins, stated in a Reddit AMA that funding from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been instrumental in helping scientists break new scientific ground.
“All of your donations have been amazingly helpful and we have been working tirelessly to find a cure,” Ling wrote.
An infographic from The ALS Association, the global leader in ALS research that received the funds, breaks it down thusly.
Given the group’s stellar performance ratings among leading charity evaluators, I think it is safe to say that we can take them at their word regarding the efficient use of money. Maybe there is something to this so-called “hashtag activism” after all? If only we can muster such efforts to defend the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from Congressional budget cuts, which among other things has led to a 32 percent reduction in ALS research.
Adjusted for inflation, the current NIH budget of $30.9 billion has remained virtually unchanged for over a decade. Its 27 state-of-the-art facilities and centers are responsible for some of the most cutting-edge biomedical and health-related research in the world, including nearly 30 percent of all biomedical research funding annually. With 1,200 principal investigators and more than 4,000 postdoctoral researchers, the NIH‘s Intramural Research Program (IRP) is the largest biomedical research institution on Earth.
Given what has been made possible by a combination of creativity, technology, and grassroots compassion, let us see how much further we can take it. There are no shortage of good causes to support.