Gordon Gund and Family Announce Matching Gift Challenge

June 19, 2014

In support of the fight to eradicate blindness, Foundation Fighting Blindness Chairman and Co-Founder Gordon Gund and his family announced a matching gift challenge they hope will result in millions of dollars in funds to accelerate pre-clinical, translational and clinical research for retinal degenerative diseases.

The Gund Family Challenge will provide an unlimited, dollar-for-dollar match for $25,000+ gifts donated as part of Envision 20/20, a transformative campaign that will run through 2020 to end blindness. Funds raised through the Challenge are expected to garner at least $100 million in new gifts and matches from the family by 2016, and will be used to fund current and future research.

To date, Gund and his family, along with related entities, have given more than $130 million to the Foundation Fighting Blindness in their 43-year quest to restore vision to those living with blindness.

“This Challenge is our way of encouraging others to sustain the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ momentum and help it reach its goal of finding a cure for blinding retinal degenerative diseases,” said Gund, 74, who lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa in 1970 at the age of 30. “Our family is committed to finishing the job we helped start, and we hope this Challenge requires us to match as much as is needed to fast-track progress for promising treatments from the lab to clinical trials.”

After losing his sight, Gund launched a highly successful career as a venture capitalist, investor, former owner of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, all while dedicating time to his most passionate goal—securing crucial funding needed for research in retinal degenerative diseases.

In the past year alone, research that received critical support from the Foundation has resulted in substantial growth across a number of fields, leading to key scientific advancements including the commercial launch of the first “bionic retina” and encouraging results from a gene therapy clinical trial for choroideremia. This progress builds on a breakthrough gene therapy human study for a rare retinal disease called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), which restored significant vision to children and young adults including a boy who was able to put away his white cane and play baseball. Now in a Phase III study, the treatment is being advanced by a newly formed company. Similarly in previous years, Foundation-funded research discovered the science that led to the commercial development of two therapies for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – Lucentis® and Eylea®—which are saving and, in many cases, restoring sight to people with AMD.

“There are nearly 20 clinical trials underway for retinal diseases, and we’re expecting several new gene and stem cell-based human studies to commence in the next several years,” said Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer at the Foundation Fighting Blindness. “The Gund Family Challenge provides a renewed urgency to drive research that can help us better understand the causes and identify treatments for these diseases and get them to clinical trial.”

Envision 20/20 and the Gund Family Challenge will mark the largest commitment ever to finding a cure for blindness, with more than $1 million already secured.

“Over the last four decades, Gordon has served as a true leader to our movement, and the Gund Family Challenge is further proof of his invaluable efforts to bring the Foundation Fighting Blindness to where we are today,” said William Schmidt, chief executive officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. “We applaud his family for their efforts to do whatever it takes to find preventions, treatments and cures for the entire spectrum of blinding, retinal degenerative diseases.”