The Foundation Fighting Blindness in Columbia, Maryland, has announced the creation of the first-ever Retinal Degeneration Fund (RD Fund), a wholly owned 501(c)(3) nonprofit subsidiary focused on making venture philanthropy investments that further the organization's mission.
Established with more than $70 million in initial funding, the fund will invest in pre-clinical efforts aimed at developing treatments and a cure for inherited retinal diseases and age-related macular degeneration. FFB made its first such investment, in SparingVision, through its subsidiary, the Clinical Research Institute, in 2016. Through CRI, the foundation has since co-funded other projects with its partners Nacuity Pharmaceuticals and ProQR. Recognizing the growing need for investments that speed translation of scientific discoveries into meaningful clinical results, the organization will merge its CRI subsidiary into the fund, which will focus purely on mission-related investments. The $70 million initially dedicated to the fund includes the first three investments made by CRI.
To be managed by CEO Benjamin Yerxa, COO Jason Menzo, and Russell Kelley, who will serve as vice president of investments and alliances, the fund will be overseen by an independent board of directors and will remain open to new donations for several months, with all future proceeds from its investments being used to advance FBB's research mission.
"Although $70 million sounds like a lot of money, we have to remember that a single R&D program can cost tens of millions of dollars or more," said Paul Manning, whose family recently completed a Gund Challenge pledge of nearly $12 million to the RD Fund. "The Manning family is truly excited to see the Foundation Fighting Blindness move in this direction, and we invite others to join us in financially supporting this effort."
(Photo credit: gettyimages - Batke)