To advance the fight against vision loss, Fort pledges $15 million | Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

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Gift to School of Medicine funds discovery research in eye diseases

Katie Gertler

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has received a $15 million pledge from philanthropist Jeffrey T. Fort to accelerate research and develop new treatments for diseases that cause vision loss. The gift supports innovative research led by retina surgeon and scientist Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, John F. Hardesty, MD, of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Deterioration of parts of the eye that are essential for clear vision, such as the macula and retina, can lead to vision loss and eventually blindness. The gift will fund research to understand how inflammation and neurodegeneration can cause a variety of eye diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. Such research is essential in the development of new treatments to prevent or treat vision loss.


We are deeply grateful to Jeffrey Fort for his continued support of the University of Washington, the research activities of our faculty, and the patients who benefit from his kindness, said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. His generous gift will lead to discoveries that have great potential to transform treatments that can improve the lives of many people affected by diseases that cause vision loss.

David H. Perlmutter, MD, vice chancellor for medical affairs, George and Carol Bauer dean of the School of Medicine and Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, reiterated his appreciation for Forts’ generosity.

This generous gift from Jeffrey Fort recognizes the exceptional quality of our physician scientists and their dedicated staff in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Perlmutter said. Together, they provide tremendous medical care and work to achieve major advances in visual science. We are deeply grateful to Mr. Forti for his willingness to assist us in these very important efforts.

Under the care of Washington University physicians for nearly four decades, Fort understands intimately the impact of eye disease. Ophthalmologists at the School of Medicine diagnosed and treated his eye diseases.

This gift is about the future, a moonshot that allows us to take a giant leap forward, said Apte, who is the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor and vice president for innovation and translation and has known Forti and his family for a decade. Jeffrey Fort has a big personality and an even bigger vision for the future. He understands the problems people face and is inspired by innovative ideas that may one day lead to therapies that help them.

As a St. Louis native, he is proud of the impact Washington University is making in the community. His generosity is a testament to his dedication to bettering the community.

Fort established the Jeffrey T. Fort Innovation Fund in 2015 in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, giving a $1 million gift to fund researchers studying the root causes of vision diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other blinding diseases. . Five years later, he pledged another million dollars to the Jeffrey T. Fort Innovation Fund.

Fortress support has already helped Aptes understand how metabolism affects the function of retinal neurons. The resources have enabled his group to test molecular targets in human clinical trials for aging and eye diseases, including retinal and macular degeneration. In addition, the grant has helped shed light on the role of the immune system in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which high blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the retina and can lead to blindness. The new $15 million pledge will fund, among other things, clinical trials aimed at identifying targeted therapies designed for individual patients based on their specific diseases.

These gifts signify friendship, said Fort, who made his first gift to the medical school in 2011. I have great respect for the University of Washington faculty and their contributions to research and medicine.

Ideas that were previously largely impossible due to the demand for research resources are now within reach, Apte said. Fortresses’ commitment to visual sciences has enabled the researcher-physician to think more broadly. For Apte, it is a welcome challenge. He strives for precision medicine by tailoring healthcare and treatments to individual needs. Moving from bedside to bench, identified targets can be studied in animal models and cell-based systems before moving the therapy to clinical trials.

Led by Raj Apte, this generous investment to accelerate retinal disease research is a testament to the strength of our faculty, innovative science and cutting-edge care John F. Hardesty, MD, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, said Todd P. Margolis, MD, PhD, Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished professor and head of the department of ophthalmology. We are committed to combining science and clinical care to improve patients’ lives. This gift helps us lead the way.

Fort is an award-winning photojournalist. Now retired, he co-owned and founded Motive Creative, a digital production facility specializing in theatrical trailers and media campaigns in Hollywood, California. He also served as director of Jeffrey T. Fort Investigations, which specializes in forensic investigations. work, witness interviews and expert witness support.

In addition to his gifts to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Fort gave $5 million in 2019 for research in the Department of Neurosurgery and the establishment of the Margery Campbell Fort Professorship in Neurological Surgery, named in memory of his mother.

Coincidentally, Forts’ most recent gift to the ophthalmology department was completed on Oct. 6, when his mother would have turned 96. “Our mom was such a charitable and generous person,” said Forts’ sister Liz Dorr, who helps coordinate her philanthropy. He would have been so proud of Jeffs commitment to advancing medical research.

About Washington University School of Medicine

WashU Medicine is a world leader in academic medicine, which includes biomedical research, patient care and educational programs, with a staff of 2,800. Its National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding portfolio is the third largest among US medical schools, having grown 52% over the past six years, and combined with institutional investments, WashU Medicine commits well over $1 billion annually to basic and clinical research. innovation and education. Its faculty practice consistently ranks among the top five in the nation, with more than 1,800 faculty physicians working at 65 locations who are also on staff at BJC HealthCare’s Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Childrens Hospitals. With a long history of medical and doctoral education, WashU Medicine has recently dedicated $100 million to medical student scholarships and curriculum renewal, and hosts top-notch training programs in all medical subspecialties, as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and audiology. and communication sciences.

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