Update: voting ends midnight EDT Monday 9/29.

Great post Friday on John Halamka’s GeekDoctor blog. It’s about GlobalCures, an entry in MembersProject, an American Express contest that has $2.5 million in prizes for proposals to make a positive change in the world. 1190 proposals have winnowed down – through popular vote – to 25 semifinalists; five will win grants.

The GlobalCures entry says:

The Idea:
The idea is to rapidly develop affordable new therapies for major diseases by conducting clinical trials with combinations of generic or unpatented substances. Pharmaceutical companies will not conduct such trials, since they will not be able to recover their investments. Without evidence from such trials, doctors will be reluctant to prescribe such medicines and health insurance will not cover their cost. We estimate this idea will reduce suffering and save millions of lives within a few years.

The Problem:
Most laboratory research that generates ideas for promising therapies is funded by the government. Pharmaceutical companies then conduct clinical trials to get FDA approval. Since clinical trials are expensive, only lab work with patent protection is singled out by commercial enterprises for further investment. This scenario has left behind untapped opportunities: potential therapies based on substances that were never patented or generic drugs that could be used for new indications.

In large part, this is a large-scale expression of Chapter 5 of e-Patients: How they can help us heal healthcare. The chapter is titled “e-Patients as Medical Researchers.” My summary of the chapter is here, and the full text is here.

Note the contrasts shown on the business model page between regular for-profit pharma and GlobalCures. Example:

For-profit pharma: create shareholder value.
GlobalCures: create patient value.

Tech trend watchers, keep your eyes peeled: this is disruption happening, faster than I expected. In the face of an industry that’s unmotivated to help without profit (as Halamka’s post details), people are banding together to do it themselves. And they’re being empowered by the Internet, in ways that were unimaginable before the Web.

Imagine if these people got their hands on six or seven digits of new funding through this contest!

Go to www.membersproject.com to learn, and if you’re an American Express customer, vote for http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/W7DZSG.

Here’s something that would warm DocTom’s heart: the web site has expansive instructions on how to use “e” to promote the project: Facebook, MySpace, IM, blogs, YouTube, you name it. 100% empowering lay people to connect with each other and create something on their own.

Ooo, and GlobalCures has a juicy list of patient advocates. Time to generate some new alliances!

CardMembers, PLEASE GO VOTE!