Mike Dewey, a marketing consultant in Austin, Texas, has pledged to give $1 billion through his Dewey Foundation to the first person who discovers a cure for breast cancer, the Associated Press reports.
While far short of raising the money for the prize, Dewey said he has about $22 million in pledges so far and about $90,000 in actual donations. Updating an announcement he made earlier this year, he said his foundation will provide "Victory Project Awards" worth $1 billion each to the first person who cures diabetes, reduces greenhouse emissions from petroleum-powered automobiles by 95 percent, or creates a 3,000-pound car capable of getting 150 miles per gallon. "I think that we've cracked the code for a new kind of philanthropy," said Dewey, who would retain the intellectual rights to the breast cancer cure but would put it in the public domain for free.
Although Dewey, whose wife has been cancer-free since surgery in 2000, believes the money will come in if a cure is found, others are more skeptical. Dr. David Euhus, a surgical oncologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that while some donors are making contributions to Dewey's foundation because they're "getting a little frustrated" by the lack of progress toward a cure, few people will find the idea realistic.
Arthur Caplan, chair of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, agrees with that assessment. "I think sometimes there is a belief that if we have the right incentive, anything can be solved," said Caplan. "This isn't a problem of incentive. It's having the right luck, the right breakthrough, the right science to get the problem solved."