Gordon Gund, who’s held in extremely high esteem by people inside and outside the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), has been completely blind for decades. He lost his eyesight to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa in his thirties. Not that it slowed him down much. Among other accomplishments, he’s been a financier, venture capitalist, sports-team owner and sculptor. And, of course, he’s a co-founder of FFB and its chairman of the board.
But Gordon fought hard to keep his eyesight. It’s one of the reasons he, his wife, Lulie, and several other families established the Foundation back in 1971, when, in essence, there was no retinal-research field. Forty-four years later, the $600 million FFB has raised to help create that field, and fund researchers worldwide, is beginning to pay off.
In a recent interview with CNBC’ s Brian Sullivan, during a tech-investor conference in Nantucket, Gordon explained why this is such a crucial time in retinal-research history. You can see that interview here, where the FFB discussion begins at minute 2.
Long story short, the Foundation’s investments in early- to late-stage research have helped facilitate the recent FDA approval of the Argus II, or “bionic retina,” and a retinal-disease gene therapy that has restored vision in 100 children and young adults. FDA approval of the latter would make it the first marketable gene therapy in the world targeting a retinal disease.
It would also be just one of many treatments needed to take on more than a dozen retinal diseases affecting tens of millions of people worldwide.
So the other highlight of Gordon’s interview, starting at 4:30, is his pitch for The Gordon and Llura Gund Family Challenge, a matching challenge which capitalizes on the momentum FFB has helped create by raising urgently needed funds for the research that remains.
Through June 30, 2016, Gordon explains, qualifying donations of $25,000 or more will be matched. The challenge was launched last summer and has, thus far, brought in $30 million. With the Gunds’ match, that’s $60 million—all of it going to research.
But the goal is to raise at least $100 million. With another nine months to go, Gordon, Lulie and the Foundation plan to do just that.