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The Joshua Cefalu Fund

The fund seeks to advance understanding of the biological basis for suffering, model its global distribution, and most effectively minimize it.

*Note, the following text is provisional and subject to change.


You may earmark tax deductible donations to the fund here. Contact us:

Fund Focus

The fund provides grants to research projects that further its mission. If you believe your research aligns with one of the following three foci, or you can otherwise contribute, please submit your proposal to:

  1. Advance Understanding of Suffering's Biological Basis
    We’re looking for comprehensive literature reviews collating theories of suffering. We are also interested in experimental protocols that would help to adjudicate differences between these theories.

  2. Model the Global Distribution of Suffering
    What groups of organisms collectively suffer the most? Answers to this question can help prioritize efforts to prevent their suffering. Those wishing to contribute should familiarize themselves with the Suffering Switchboard, a theory-neutral mathematical model of global suffering burden.

  3. Effectively Minimize Suffering Now
    Given their shared evolutionary history, even distantly related organisms have a lot in common. For example, humans, crocodiles, and many other creatures have the same basic arm bones, what biologists call homologous structures. Gene sequences, including those coding for suffering, are often homologous as well. Thus, when seeking to understand suffering (Focus 1) and identify the largest groupings of animals which we might be able to collectively help (Focus 2), it's important to account for the fact that similar genetic sequences underpin suffering among diverse species, including ones with radically different brain structures. For example, variations in fruit fly DNA which reduce pain behaviors also do so in distantly related organisms such as mice. Thus, gene therapies which provide pain relief in one organism can help others as well. Instead of only being able to help arctic krill or factory farm cattle, such understanding is often extensible to highly dissimilar beings. The question then is what organisms, in what contexts, might serve as the greatest force multipliers, advancing our ability to provide the most, say, pain relief to the largest groups of organisms?

Animals in labs are potentially the best candidates for such interventions. Sadly, they are often denied pain relief because drugs may compromise experimental results. However, gene therapy for pain provides an alternative means of preventing their suffering. Widespread use of such therapies will likely foster further development of anti-suffering scientific techniques on a global scale, regardless of the nominal reason given for performing particular studies. Furthermore, the greater shift toward empowering animals in these controlled environments will strengthen the technical, political, and rational case for safely and incrementally broadening the use of these therapies. Indeed, whether one prioritizes reducing suffering capacity among human cancer patients, non-humans (ab)used on factory farms, or wild animals, governing bodies will likely require testing in laboratories first. Thus, we can say that laboratory use, in particular, is a keystone or rate-limiting step in minimizing suffering at large.


Propose Alternative Strategies

Generally, we do not engage in unrelated or one-off projects, as focus is critical to our success as an organization. However, we are always open to entertaining strong, ideally concise, arguments for why we should drop a focus in order to adopt a better one. Please reach out if you have alternate proposals.

From Prize to Fund

We originally conceived of this work as a single prize, with a statement that read “text is provisional and subject to change”. No one expert could provide us with all the results needed, nor did we think it was likely that many interdisciplinary teams would form without our active coordination. Thus, without soliciting or accepting any applications for the prize, we have decided to piece together those results from multiple collaborators.

Who We Are

The Joshua Cefalu Foundation (JCF), Henry George School of San Francisco (HGS-SF), and Invincible Wellbeing (IW) have partnered to create the Joshua Cefalu Fund.

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