The Detroit-based Gilbert Family Foundation has announced the launch of an $11 million initiative aimed at reversing vision loss caused by the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).
The Vision Restoration Initiative, the foundation's second research initiative designed to accelerate the development of therapies for NF1, will fund research aimed at reversing vision loss caused by the disease and provide a platform for collaboration among scientists. In 2018, the foundation established a three-year, $12 million initiative focused on accelerating the development of curative therapies that address the underlying genetic abnormalities in NF1 patients. To date, the Gilberts and their foundation have committed a total of $64 million to address NF1.
The debilitating genetic disorder causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. In up to 20 percent of those affected by the disorder, tumors grow on the optic nerves and cause patients to lose their vision.
As part of the initiative, the foundation has assembled a team of ophthalmology, neuroscience, and NF1 researchers in three promising areas: neuroprotection/neuroenhancement therapy designed to protect mildly damaged optic nerves from additional damage; exogenous cell replacement therapy, which is designed to generate new, healthy cells for transplantation; and endogenous cell replacement therapy, which is aimed at stimulating the patient's eyes to regenerate the optic nerve.
"We recognized the importance of connecting top researchers from across the country to work collaboratively in finding a cure for NF1," said Dan Gilbert, co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation and a 2012 signatory of the Giving Pledge. "Under this newest initiative, the foundation is providing funds, and more importantly, a platform to bring together scientific leaders and their multidisciplinary expertise. We are invested in bringing some of the brightest minds together with the kinds of talent and capital that is needed to beat the devastating effects of neurofibromatosis."
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