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Competition and Collaboration

In their most honest moments, the best and brightest scientific researchers agree that competition is good.  When researchers have to apply for limited funds they sharpen their thinking and put their best science forward.  This is why MRF has, from the beginning of our grant program, engaged in a competitive application process.  Researchers who seek funding must present a proposal that is reviewed by experts in the particular area being addressed by that proposal.  Only about one request in six is funded, and this competition for funds has always resulted in very, very good science.  In fact, many of the men and women at the forefront of melanoma discovery were previously or are currently funded by MRF.

But collaboration is good, too.  As I write this I am sitting on a train, headed to Philadelphia.  This evening I will attend a dinner that culminates the annual golf fundraiser held by the Susan Fazio Foundation. 

Susan Fazio was an active member of her community, a beloved wife, mother and grandmother.  She was diagnosed with a relatively rare form of melanoma—mucosal melanoma.  Treatment options were bleak at best, and only five months after her diagnosis she succumbed to her cancer.

But the family didn’t let it end there.  They gathered together and determined to start a foundation to help fight this monster that had stolen their loved one. Since its inception in 2006, the Susan Fazio Foundation has funded over a quarter of a million dollars in research.  Realizing that they didn’t have the scientific expertise to direct these funds for maximum benefit, the Fazio family has chosen to direct their support to the MRF grant program. 

Because of this, the Fazio Foundation made possible critically important research.  This includes funding the work of an investigator who demonstrated that different forms of melanoma have different genetic profiles, research that has opened the door to tremendous advances in treatment for this cancer.  It also includes, most recently, funding the first-ever grant specifically focused on mucosal melanoma.  By channeling funds through MRF’s rigorous grant review process, the family has confidence that these contributions have the largest possible impact.

I could list a dozen other groups who take the same approach.  Like the Fazio’s, they are convinced that working together maximizes the impact of their efforts. 

Collaboration and competition.  Competition makes us sharper, more creative, drives us to work harder, better and faster.  Collaboration multiplies our efforts and makes possible things that none of us could do on our own.  Driven by these twin principles, we can—I am convinced—put an end to thing called melanoma once and for all.