$25,000 of crowdfunded money is going toward a project that could help more than a billion people.

In one of the largest science-research-based crowdfunding campaigns to date, Northeastern University College of Science associate professor Michael Pollastri raised $25,031.

Pollastri, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology, used the crowdfunding site Microryza to get his project on neglected tropical diseases – or NTDs – rolling.

“I am very grateful to our supporters – it’s clear that their help is critical for moving the project forward, which will undoubtedly improve the way that we collaborate with others to discover new drugs for NTDs,” said Pollastri.

NTDs include diseases such as malaria, African sleeping sickness, and Chagas disease. They affect more than one billion people every year, but because they are the poorest people, too, big pharma does not dedicate many resources to finding treatments and cures.

Using the donated money, Pollastri will build a platform that will allow scientists working with NTDs to share quantitative data amongst each other.  Researchers traditionally work on projects in parallel and their data is not known to others until published. This new platform will lead to less duplication and be more time-efficient.

At this point Pollastri is in the process of transferring his lab’s private NTD data into the portal and curating the data so that the most meaningful and up-to-date info is available.

“I am also touching base with scientists I’ve met who expressed an interest in participating, and asking them to get the ball rolling as well,” he said. “Finally, I am planning a membership push in the coming weeks via email and social media – the more NTD research teams that participate, the better and more useful the portal will be!”

Pollastri says based on the success of his crowdfunding campaign, and others completed through Microryza, it’s apparent that crowdfunding is an increasingly important funding mechanism for science, “especially in these lean times of (National Institutes of Health) funding,” he said.

The $25,000 raised is just the beginning for this project. Drug discovery is an expensive endeavor, and the experiments his lab and others intend to complete are costly. Pollastri’s hope is that with this start – and in working with labs around the world – they can attract additional investments from other organizations that see the value after the researchers demonstrate proof-of-concept.