Genius Call: $75M for No-Surgery Spay/Neuter
A wealthy medical inventor is offering $75 million for the development of a one-time, non-surgical approach to sterilization. (Pet Pulse Illustration by Tim Mattson)
NEW YORK -- The issue over animal overpopulation in the United States is costly for strays and communities alike, but one retired surgeon now has placed a hefty price on the cause.
Dr. Gary Michelson is offering a prize of $25 million for whomever comes up with a one-time, non-surgical method for animal sterilization, it was announced at the National Spay/Neuter Conference in Chicago on Oct. 16.
Another $50 million is also earmarked for an unlimited number of researchers who present and develop potential solutions.
Michelson, who placed No. 317 on Forbes' 400 Richest Americans list last month, announced the contest through his non-profit organization, Found Animals Foundation. The Los Angeles based initiative tackles spay/neuter and adoption issues.
It isn't like there is "anything wrong with surgical spay and neutering procedures," Found Animals Foundation's executive director, Aimee Gilbreath, said.
But the surgical procedures can be costly and inconvenient.
"Non-surgical procedures can greatly extend our reach in this field," she said. "We don't see it as a replacement for spay and neutering programs, but this could target people who don't have the money for this procedure or in different areas where sterilization isn't as common."
Any individual, or group, can now submit a basic proposal to Found Animals on a rolling basis. Applicants whose proposals are accepted will then draft longer scientific approaches, and could potentially receive a piece of the $50 million set aside for research.
Found Animals hopes there will be a tested, non-surgical approach to sterilization on the market within 10 years.
While some scientists have been researching potential solutions to the problem for years, looking at treatments similar to birth control pills or hormone control, no one has yet to develop that "holy grail product," Gilbreath said.
Among other organizations, Found Animals has teamed up with the Oregon-based non-profit organization Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, which focuses on non-surgical approaches to sterilization.
Michelson's prize may act as a strong incentive for some researchers, says Karen Green, director of outreach for the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs.
"One of the key components for a program like this would be the funding available for research," Green said. "Researchers have been working on this case for decades and have developed projects, but they haven't reached the point where the immunizations are permanent."
"We need to be looking in to new and novel technologies."
Potentially successful methods could appear in the form of a pill or a one-time injection, Green says.
This medical solution could be critical to controlling stray animal populations, as a simple, single procedure that could allow animal-welfare organizations to "reach the animals we are missing today," Green said.
"Both within the United States and then internationally, there is some of the greatest need in developing nations," she said. "There you see economic, geographic and sometimes cultural barriers to sterilization."
This monetary incentive, Green says, could help further develop similar smart, all-encompassing ideas.
"We want to really flush out some of the people that have targeted work on some of the technology for this, but have not been able to get funding for the work," she said. "Anybody can do it and this is an international effort."
Preliminary proposal applications can be accessed at Found Animals' Web site FoundAnimals.org. Gilbreath says she hopes to see projects in motion within the first few months of 2009.
The organization has already received several proposals.
"We honestly don't know what to expect," Gilbreath said. "We hope to support all of the good ideas that come along. And folks seem incredibly excited about this, from the responses we have gotten from the animal welfare community. Clearly people see the potential for this kind of project."
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4 years ago
I would love it if someone came up with an easy way to fix animals. Cat's reproduce all the time. I have had so many cat's fixed. We have 4 semi ferril cats running around right now,spraying everything they pass, looking for a fight and a girl cat. I always say I'm sweeping a river, I fix one and then another shows up.
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