The Oregonian

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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Foundation Fighting Blindness and Harrington Discovery Institute Partner to Accelerate Drug Development for Critical Causes of Blindness


Gund-Harrington Initiative will create the National Center of Excellence in Fighting Blindness as part of the Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals, Cleveland


COLUMBIA, Md. and CLEVELAND, Oct. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Foundation Fighting Blindness in Columbia, MD, and Harrington Discovery Institute in Cleveland, OH, announce a new nationwide initiative, "The Gund-Harrington National Initiative for Fighting Blindness," focused on finding treatments and cures for people affected by inherited retinal diseases that lead to blindness. More than 10 million Americans, and many more times that number worldwide, of every age and race suffer vision loss from this type of eye disease.

"It is a great honor to team up on a shared mission with the Gordon and Lulie Gund family, the Foundation Fighting Blindness and University Hospitals," said Ron Harrington, who along with his wife, Nancy; daughter, Jill; and son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Lydia, made a gift of $50 million in 2012 to launch the Harrington Discovery Institute. "It is deeply meaningful for our family to share Gordon and Lulie Gund's longtime philanthropic mission and passion."

Together the two organizations will provide up to $50 million in new funding and resources to support up to 30 physician-scientists. The funding will play a significant role in setting the scientific and innovation agenda in leading-edge research of sight. In addition to funding leading-edge discovery initiated by physician-scientists at academic medical centers nationwide, The Gund-Harrington National Initiative for Fighting Blindness will provide experienced pharmaceutical oversight to Gund-Harrington Scholars to ensure that the most promising opportunities enter the clinic.

"On behalf of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, we believe in the extraordinary mission of the Gund-Harrington National Initiative," said Gordon Gund, co-founder and Chairman of Foundation Fighting Blindness. "We are energized by the concept and can't wait to get started. Patients around the world will hear more about our joint efforts and will soon see what it can do for them."

The Harrington Discovery Institute, along with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, will create the National Center of Excellence in Fighting Blindness and seek drug development projects not only based on scientific and creativity criteria, but also on their potential to rapidly advance to commercialization. Gund-Harrington Scholars will carry out their research at their home institutions and will receive direct oversight from the Innovation Support Center of the Harrington Discovery Institute, which houses a pharmaceutical team of experts who are charged with overseeing drug development of the highest level nationwide.

"Our selection process focuses foremost on the potential of discoveries made by the Gund-Harrington Scholars to cure some of the most devastating causes of sight loss," said Jonathan Stamler, MD, Director of the Harrington Discovery Institute and Robert S. and Sylvia K. Reitman Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Innovation and Director of the Institute for Transformative Molecular Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and UH Case Medical Center. "The Gund-Harrington Initiative will combine the focused philanthropic initiatives of two families to create a new model to fight eye diseases. Gund-Harrington support will provide the nation's cadre of top physician-scientists unique opportunities to create new medicines that will improve sight."

Gund-Harrington Scholars will also have access to BioMotiv, a for-profit drug company aligned with Harrington Discovery Institute in mission and structure. BioMotiv was created to help advance discoveries by academic researchers in areas of unmet need.

About the Harrington Family

The Harrington family has a passion for finding entrepreneurial solutions to pressing problems. With their gift of $50 million in 2012 to create the innovative Harrington Discovery Institute, the family is taking on two major intersecting challenges: accelerating the discovery and development of medical breakthroughs, and enabling physicians across the nation to play critical roles in the process. The Harrington Discovery Institute is supporting 28 highly accomplished Harrington Scholars nationally and has established partnerships with the American Society for Clinical Investigation to establish the Harrington Prize for Innovation in Medicine and has formed a relationship with the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. Most recently the Harrington Discovery Institute received $25 million in funding from the Ohio Third Frontier.

Previously, Ron and Nancy Harrington, their daughter, Jill, and son and daughter-in-law, Ron and Lydia, donated $22.6 million in 2008 to establish the University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. It is among the largest gifts in the country to a cardiovascular institute. The institute is dedicated to the development of innovative technologies and clinical advancements in the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. It led to the recruitment of a team of internationally known cardiovascular experts as well as an investment in the development of significant new breakthroughs in preventing and treating heart disease.

The Harringtons' total giving to University Hospitals has surpassed $72 million, making them the most generous philanthropic family in the organization's 150-year history. The family resides in Hudson, Ohio; the entire family has been involved in the acquisition, growth and sale of Edgepark Medical, the nation's leading mail-order provider of medical supplies.

About Gordon Gund

Native Clevelander and former Cavaliers owner, Gordon Gund, co-founded, in 1971, along with his wife Lulie and others, the Foundation Fighting Blindness headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. Over the past 43 years, the foundation has raised nearly $600 million to fund research to find treatments and cures for people affected with retinal degenerative diseases. The foundation's research in recent years has produced major advances and extraordinary breakthroughs. As a result of this very exciting program, Gordon and Lulie Gund, who have been major sponsors of the foundation all along, announced a challenge to match on a dollar-for-dollar basis increased gifts of $25,000 or more up to an unlimited amount made to the foundation's major gifts campaign, Envision 20/20. They hope to generate at least $100 million of funds with this match through 2020 to expand research. Gund lost his sight to a retinal disease at the age of 31 in 1970 and since then, he and Lulie have championed research to reverse the effects of all retinal degenerative diseases.

Foundation Fighting Blindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has a broad network and deep domain expertise in inherited retinal diseases, a set of programs for funding discoveries and advancing them toward clinical studies, and a robust pipeline of funded projects that represent new therapeutic opportunities. The foundation is funding startup companies and for-profit initiatives through its establishment of the Clinical Research Institute (the "CRI"), a not-for-profit subsidiary, which can partner to provide substantial later-stage funding for high-potential projects. The Foundation Fighting Blindness is supporting more than a dozen clinical trials and several more gene and stem-cell-based human studies could begin in the next several years. www.fightblindness.org

The Harrington Project, the Harrington Discovery Institute and BioMotiv

The Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals in Cleveland is part of a national initiative unveiled in February 2012 called The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development. It is a nonprofit medical institute dedicated to physician-scientists, enabling them to transform breakthrough insights into novel therapies that enhance patient care. The Harrington Project is fueled by $250 million in donations and other funding, including $50 million from the Harrington Family. BioMotiv is the mission-driven accelerator associated with The Harrington Project. The focus is to accelerate breakthrough discoveries from research institutions into therapeutics for patients through an innovative model that efficiently aligns capital and collaborations. BioMotiv most recently announced a strategic partnership with Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited. Learn more about The Harrington Project.