Effective health research, part 2

I previously looked into potentially effective ways to donate to health research, including leading causes of death/poor quality of life.  I’ve been looking into this again and have a few updates.  I haven’t thoroughly vetted every one of these organizations, and I welcome further feedback — but I’ve spent a few hours researching.  And for cancer research and Parkinson’s research in particular, I feel quite confident about these recommendations.

Cancer research

In A Practical Guide To The Best Medical Research Charities, the Glaucoma Research Foundation has some good tips about donating to health research in general, and about some good specific organizations (you’ll never guess who they recommend for eye research ;) ).  For cancer research, they make the following recommendation:

The Cancer Research Institute easily wins the award for the best cancer research charity. CRI net over $25 million in funding during 2016, and uses 87% of those funds to support immunotherapy research.

CRI is a great charity because—aside from supporting many scientists with funds—they also run a clinical accelerator program which gets the best ideas from the laboratory into the clinic as fast as possible. In total, CRI has funded over 120 clinical trials and invested over $344 million over the course of its existence.

Consumer Reports concurs with this recommendation, based on high ratings from BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.

Cardiovascular research

The Glaucoma Research Foundation also has a recommendation here, with examples of demonstrated impact:

The Cardiovascular Research Foundation wins the best cardiovascular disease award because of its thirty year history of making fundamental contributions to critical research. The CRF has played a role in a few major advancements in cardiovascular medicine, including:

With proven impact over time, the CRF is an excellent research charity to consider donating to.

Unlike the Cancer Research Institute, I didn’t immediately find other coverage/analysis of this foundation — in part because it’s a private foundation and thus not covered by tools like Charity Navigator.  But it’s encouraging to see evidence of efficacy over time.

Neurodegenerative disease research

One of the universally acknowledged best research charities in this area is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.  It’s rated very highly by Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.  And as GenEngNews notes:

A notable beacon of efficiency is the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which gives no less than 82.6% of its total revenues as research grants and awards. Significantly, only two other disease foundations listed spent more than half of the money they took in on research.

Forbes recommends Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, aka CureAlz (another 4-star charity, according to Charity Navigator):

Since its founding, CureAlz has contributed more than $83,000,000 to research. One research breakthrough funded by the organization is the ground-breaking “Alzheimer’s in a Dish” study. The 2014 study was conducted by Drs. Rudy Tanzi and Doo Yeon Kim and focused on how to grow human brain cells that exhibit the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s pathology in a form mimicking that of a brain. The results allowed for a more thorough testing of drugs to determine whether they should be considered for clinical trials.

Research is the sole mission of the organization. According to the organization’s website, fully 100% of funds raised go directly to research; the Board of Directors covers all overhead expenses. CureAlz’ goal is to stop Alzheimer’s disease through early prediction, prevention, and effective intervention leading to a cure.

healthgrades has an article about charities that support MS research that has some promising candidates, though some also address other causes (I’ve made some formatting and minor content edits for clarity):

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization that’s dedicated to eradicating more than 100 autoimmune diseases, including MS. AARDA is focused on alleviating the suffering and the financial impact of autoimmunity. More than 92% of all AARDA contributions are used for research, education, and patient services, which is possible because the AARDA is primarily staffed by volunteers. [From the AARDA site: Some of more well-known autoimmune diseases are lupus, type 1 diabetes, scleroderma, celiac, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, myasthenia gravis, myositis, antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), Sjogren’s syndrome, uveitis, vasculitis, relapsing polychondritis, and demyelinating neuropathies.] [4/4 stars on Charity Navigator]

The Race to Erase MS Foundation is dedicated to treating and ultimately curing MS. It’s core focus is raising funds for its Center Without Walls program, a nationwide collaboration of the nation’s top seven MS research centers, which include Harvard, Yale, Cedars Sinai, University of Southern California, Oregon Health Science University, UC San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins…. For every dollar donated to The Race to Erase MS Foundation, 71% funds MS research. [3/4 stars on Charity Navigator]

The Myelin Repair Foundation supports research that focuses on myelin repair for all neurological diseases, including MS. Since 2004, the Myelin Repair Foundation has raised $60 million to support its myelin repair research program. Using myelin repair for MS as a demonstration, the Foundation is introducing a new comprehensive system for medical research and drug development, known as the Accelerated Research Collaboration Model (ARC). The Foundation’s overall goal for ARC is to shorten the time new medicines can take to get to market and reach the patients who desperately need them. [Not rated on Charity Navigator]

It seems that the autoimmune and myelin repair approaches are mostly complementary, from what small amount of reading I’ve done.

Healthgrades and glaucoma.org also recommend:

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is an excellent medical research charity that also happens to be one of the largest in the US. NMSS is the best because of its expensive corporate and public sponsorship programs and cornucopia of grant programs which fund research.

NMSS pulled in over $110 million in funding during 2015, of which it spent nearly $100 million on programs. NMSS disburses its funds to train future scientists, too—a great addition to a portfolio of research grants.

Interestingly, given that last paragraph, NMSS only gets a rating of 3/4 from Charity Navigator.  CN claims they spend 23% of expenses on overhead, worse than all the previously mentioned charities (which are all on the high-efficiency end of charities).  I’m not sure how they ended up with such a different percentage from that cited in the GRF article.  And overhead is by no means the only/main factor useful for measuring effectiveness, as I’ve discussed before, but it’s worth noting.

Other medical research

I haven’t looked into these at all, but here are a few more that were given high ratings by BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Charity Watch:

Glaucoma Research Foundation also endorses:


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