Foundation News

Mar 7, 2019

The Foundation Fighting Blindness and Dr. H. James & Carole Free Collaborate to Combat AMD

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for people over 50 years of age in developed countries.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has announced the launch of The Free Family AMD Research Program, which is providing funding for 10 research projects over five years for the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) therapies. With an anchor investment from Dr. H. James & Carole Free, along with matching funds from the Foundation Fighting Blindness, this exciting program will begin in July 2019.

In addition to the new research being made possible by The Free Family AMD Research Program, the Foundation is also funding an additional $3.5 million for 11 other AMD research projects.

AMD affects more than 10 million people in the U.S. and approximately 150 million people worldwide. Advanced cases of the retinal disease can cause devastating central vision loss, leaving people unable to read, drive, and recognize faces.

"We are thrilled to continue to deepen our partnership with Dr. Free and his wife Carole. Building upon our collaboration that began in 2017, this significantly boosts our ability to drive sight-saving research," said Benjamin Yerxa, PhD, chief executive officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness. "Though we have some treatments for the wet form of AMD, there are no therapies for the dry form nor are there any preventions. We strive for the day when no one ever loses any vision to AMD."

"AMD hits very close to our family's heart as well as millions of families around the world. Our hope is to find real therapies and real preventions for this terrible disease. We are thankful to join forces with focused and competent partners like the Foundation Fighting Blindness; sourcing the best research projects and equipping key investigators to tackle this problem," said Dr. H. James Free. "We are hopeful that our efforts and partnership with the Foundation will result in breakthroughs that we can all celebrate together."

The new program is not the first collaboration between the Free Family and the Foundation. The Free Family currently supports Paul Bernstein, MD, PhD, a Foundation-funded researcher at the University of Utah, who is investigating lipids known as very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFAs) for the treatment of AMD. In addition, the Free Family previously supported John Ash, PhD, at the University of Florida, a Foundation-funded investigator, who is developing a gene therapy to preserve vision for a broad spectrum of retinal diseases.

About the Free Family

Dr. and Mrs. Free have been married for 59 years with three children and nine grandchildren. They established the Free Family Foundation nearly 20 years ago with the desire of bringing their family together around important initiatives and creating a legacy of generosity and restorative philanthropy.

Dr. Free, who is currently battling wet and dry age-related macular degeneration, is a retired MD who specialized in Internal Medicine with a focus on geriatrics and nephrology. His entire career was focused on practicing medicine in a truly compassionate and thoughtful manner.

In 1960, Dr. Free was a member of the first graduating class at the University of Florida's College of Medicine. Now, he desires to partner with researchers and institutions in finding new and innovative ways to diminish the effects of AMD and ultimately find a cure for this disease that affects so many.

About the Foundation Fighting Blindness

Established in 1971, the Foundation Fighting Blindness is the world's leading private funding source for retinal degenerative disease research. The Foundation has raised more than $750 million toward its mission of preventing, treating, and curing blindness caused by the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases including: retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and Stargardt disease. Visit www.FightingBlindness.org for more information.