The fall of crypto exchange FTX appears to have already begun to impact the hundreds of grant recipients across a variety of philanthropic organizations backed by the exchange.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried became known for backing a number of causes aimed at “humanity’s long-term prospects.”
One of these was the FTX Foundation and its FTX Future Fund, which publicly launched on Feb. 28 and reported on June 30 that it had made 262 grants and investments totaling $132 million in projects — many of these involved in pandemic preparedness, among other scientific pursuits.
However, the leadership team of the Future Fund announced their resignation on Nov. 11 in a group post noting:
“We are devastated to say that it looks likely that there are many committed grants that the Future Fund will be unable to honor.”
According to a Nov. 14 report from Science.org, there have been a number of grant recipients now concerned about their future following the FTX collapse, with SecureBio’s co-founder Kevin Esvelt suggesting that the firm is seeking emergency backup funding, stating:
“We don’t think it is right that anyone should lose their jobs over a financial calamity totally unrelated to the excellent work they are doing”
Other recipients of the Future Fund’s money include Biotechnology firm Sherlock Biosciences which was awarded $2 million to study infectious diseases, biotechnology firm HelixNano which was awarded $10 million for vaccine research, SecureBio which was awarded $1.2 to develop better pandemic defenses and Our World in Data which was awarded $7.5 million to track trends relevant to humanity’s long term prospects.
Another foundation funded by Bankman-Fried — Building a Stronger Future — has given the first tranche of a $5 million grant to the nonprofit investigative reporting organization ProPublica, with more funds initially planned to be distributed in 2023 and 2024.
According to an email shared with the business magazine Fortune, the remaining funds are on hold while Building a Stronger Future assesses its finances.
Meanwhile, lawyer and member of the Effective Altruism group Molly Kovite has warned in a Nov. 14 post that organizations which received money from an FTX entity in the 90 days prior to the Chapter 11 filing on Nov. 11 may even be subject to a “clawback” and be required to pay all or some of the money back.
Open Philanthropy, the philanthropic funder which Kovite represents, later shared in a Nov. 16 post that it was seeking applications from grantees affected by the collapse of the Future Fund, and will evaluate the applications and provide funding at their discretion.