Joshua E. Perry


Over the last decade, online crowdfunding has become a mainstream source of capital formation for a range of artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors. Low-barrier websites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that fund production of a movie or recording of an album, in addition to charity conduits such as Kiva that facilitate the dissemination of microloans in the developing world, are trusted fundraising mechanisms that offer alternatives to traditional financing through banks and venture capitalists. Moreover, these models predicated on the solicitation of relatively modest amounts of money create a more egalitarian investment environment wherein donors can join the effort—and often receive some token reward— in exchange for a sense of personal engagement and affiliation with the underlying project being financed. Crowdvesting is a kind of crowdfunding designed to raise capital a la traditional stock offerings and the sale of ` securities. Unlike charitable donations, such investment opportunities trigger analysis under existing securities laws and regulations, some of which date to post-Great Depression concerns, i.e., the 1933 and 1934 Securities Acts and others flowing from the more recent Great Recession milieu, i.e, the JOBS Act of 2012 and related state analogues. Given the decreasing availability of federal research funding, biomedical researchers have begun to explore the potential for crowdfunding models of financing. This paper explores the ethical and legal issues triggered by the specific case of the physician-researcher, active both in the clinic and at the bench, who seeks to raise funding via crowdfunding channels. Should physician-researchers solicit research funding from their patients? What are the implications for the patient’s sense of trust and the patient’s relationship with the physician? And what about those donating who are not patients or related stakeholders, but rather interested and sympathetic donors who wish to help the cause? This paper maps the landscape of these questions and concerns, and lays the groundwork for future empirical and theoretical explorations, as well as policy and practice guidelines.



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