The IRD field’s leading researchers and biotech leaders spoke at
FFB’s Investing in Cures Summit held in Chicago in September.
More than 100 people attended the day-and-a-half conference
and heard speakers such as David Gamm, MD, PhD, director
of the McPherson Eye Research Institute at the University of
Wisconsin, Madison, who said FFB’s impact on the field is the
result of “taking the smart approach of not working in silos, but
rather funding collaboration and team building.”
Also at the Investing in Cures Summit, Sue Washer, president
and CEO of Applied Genetics Technology Corporation,
expressed her appreciation for the role that early FFB
funding plays in IRD research advancements. “Many of the
groundbreaking advancements on which today’s leading IRD
research stands would not have been possible without the early
FFB funding,” she stated.
Program (TRAP) Award and is currently licensed to
Opsis Therapeutics. Its initial indications are for AMD
and cone-rod retinal disease treatments.
LCA1 GUCY2D Gene Therapy: This treatment for
Leber congenital amaurosis, the research of which
was originally funded via an FFB TRAP Award, is
currently licensed to Sanofi-Genzyme.
Rod-Derived Cone Viability Factor Gene Therapy
(rdCVF): This therapy is in preclinical development
under the leadership of the French gene therapy
company SparingVision. The treatment concept, with
an initial treatment indication for RP, was funded by
numerous FFB grants, and FFB continues to support
the research through a large equity investment in
Across four decades of funding, FFB has invested
more than $395 million in IRD research. FFB funding
is designed to kick-start good ideas and promising
studies, all with the intent of attracting later federal,
industry, or venture capital support.
“FFB has planted many, many seeds over the last
four decades. The fact that many of those seeds are
now returning fruit is exciting, and it’s an endorsement
of FFB’s strategic approach,” says David Brint.
Dr. David Gamm Sue Washer
Investing in Cures Summit
and back of the eye.
He holds 60 U.S. patents for health interventions
and has worked in multiple disease areas, including
pulmonary, cardiovascular, and HIV.
Many volunteers dedicated their time and effort to the
search for the right candidate to replace Bill Schmidt. We
are confident Ben is the right person to lead FFB as we
move the field further and faster to treatments and cures.
Read more about Ben, his experience, and his plans
for FFB's future in his interview on pages 4–5. Ben will
also be traveling across the country to meet with FFB
donors and volunteers in the coming months. I know he
would welcome the opportunity to meet you.
In closing, I wanted to share something that was
discussed at a recent meeting of the FFB’s Research
Oversight Committee. It was a good discussion about
the process by which the committee reviews grant
applications and funds those it believes offer the most
promise to advance IRD cures. Our challenge now is to
balance the need to fund studies that have historically
led to breakthrough science with the opportunity to
fund clinical research and set the infrastructure to attract
industry investment. The robust discussion reminded
me of an important fact — while we have made
tremendous strides in advancing the research, there is
still a lot more work to do on both ends of the drug-
development pathway, and we still very much need your
generous support and dedication.