While genetic disorders, like those which cause retinal diseases, are rooted in family histories, the diseases themselves are universal. Retinal degenerations affect more than 10 million Americans alone, and tens of millions more worldwide. So it makes sense that, in its efforts to drive cutting-edge research, the Foundation Fighting Blindness would cast an increasingly wide net.
That net brought in quite the catch during fiscal year 2012. Financially, it was a record-setting year, for both revenues and research expenditures. Haynes Lea, the Foundation’s treasurer, provides details in this report’s financial section, where he also shares a milestone any nonprofit would be proud of — raising $500 million over a 41-year history. That’s an extraordinary feat made possible by a network of supporters—donors, volunteers and researchers, to name a few.
As Gordon Gund, chairman and co-founder, explains in the research section, the Foundation played a big role in furthering progress made in clinical trials for drug, stem cell and gene therapies in FY 2012. Case in point: A trial for the valproic acid treatment for autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa was expanded by adding four new sites in February.
But progress, even hitting the $500-million mark, is only half the battle. To sustain the clinical trial momentum it helped create, the Foundation must continue to fund the most promising research projects around the world. Right now, that includes researchers and facilities in China, England, Germany, Israel and the United States, among other countries.
The goal: to build on the rock-solid foundation we’ve created by supporting what we believe will be groundbreaking clinical trials. Each of these trials will cost, on average, tens of millions of dollars. It’s a lot, but we have help, and plenty of it.
In the people section, for example, you’ll see that our network of tens of thousands of volunteers, partners, friends and staff members stretches across the country, generating millions in annual revenue. FY 2012 was no exception, and someone who did more than his share of raising awareness and funds is Louie McGee, a 12-year-old from St. Paul, Minnesota, who doesn’t let Stargardt disease hold him back.
When it comes to outreach, the Foundation extended its influence this past year by expanding our relationships with high-profile industries, such as car-racing and fashion. We also delved more deeply into social-media networking on the internet.
A wide net, indeed. It extends across states, countries and continents. It touches the lives of individuals, families and entire communities. And, eventually, it will enable the Foundation to fulfill its mission of eradicating vision-robbing retinal diseases.
William T. Schmidt
Chief Executive Officer