Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has received a $15 million pledge from philanthropist Jeffrey T. Forte, aimed at accelerating research and developing new treatments for diseases that cause vision loss. The gift is from John F., MD, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Hardesty, retinal surgeon and scientist Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD.
Damage to parts of the eye necessary for clear vision, such as the macula and retina, can lead to vision loss and eventually blindness. This gift will fund research to understand how inflammation and neurodegeneration can cause the diverse eye diseases that affect millions of people around the world. This kind of research is essential to developing innovative treatments to prevent or treat vision loss.
We are deeply grateful to Jeffrey Forte for his continued support of the University of Washington, the research efforts of our faculty, and the patients who benefit from his kindness,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. Their generous gift will lead to discoveries that can be translated into treatments that can improve the lives of many people suffering from diseases that cause vision loss.
David H. Perlmutter, MD, acting vice chancellor for Medical Affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, reiterated his appreciation for Fortes’ generosity.
“This generous gift from Jeffrey Forte recognizes the extraordinary caliber of our physician-scientists and their dedicated staff within the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences,” Perlmutter said. Together, they are providing groundbreaking medical care and working to make important advances in the field of visualization. We are very grateful to Mr. Forte for his willingness to help us in these extremely important efforts.
Under the care of Washington University physicians for nearly four decades, Forte deeply understands the impact of eye disease. Ophthalmologists at the School of Medicine diagnosed and treated his eye conditions.
This gift is about the future, a moonlight that will allow us to take a giant leap forward, said Apte, who is also the Paul A. is a distinguished professor and vice president of innovation and translation at Cibis and has known Forte and his family for a decade. Jeffrey Forte has a big personality and an even bigger vision for the future. He realizes people’s problems and is inspired by innovative ideas that may one day lead to treatments to 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 the well-being of the community.
Forte established the Jeffrey T. Forte Innovation Fund within the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in 2015 to help researchers discover the root causes of visual diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other blindness conditions. A gift of $1 million was provided. , Five years later, he pledged another $1 million to the Jeffrey T. Forte Innovation Fund.
Fortes’ support has already contributed to Aptase’s understanding of how metabolism affects neuronal function in the retina. The resources his group has deployed to test molecular targets in human clinical trials for aging and eye diseases, including retinal and macular degeneration. Additionally, the support has helped shed light on the immune system’s role in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, a condition in which high blood glucose damages blood vessels in the retina and can lead to blindness. The new pledge of $15 million will fund other research as well as clinical trials aimed at identifying targeted therapies designed for individual patients based on their specific conditions.
These gifts symbolize friendship, said Forte, who gave his first gift to the School of Medicine in 2011. I have great respect for the faculty at the University of Washington and their contributions to research and medicine.
Apte said ideas that were once largely unfeasible are now within reach because of the research resources required. Forte’s commitment to visual science has enabled the physician-scientist to think big. This is a welcome challenge for Apte. He strives to tailor precision medicine, health care and treatment to individual needs. Moving from bedside to bench, identified targets can be studied in animal models and cell-based systems before therapeutics are taken into clinical trials.
This generous investment to accelerate retinal disease research under the leadership of Raj Apte is a testament to the strength of our faculty, the innovative science and pioneering treatments of John F. Hardesty, MD, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, said Todd P. Margolis, MD, PhD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolfe Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Ophthalmology. We are committed to connecting science and clinical care to improve patients’ lives. This gift helps us move forward.
Forte is an award-winning photojournalist. Now retired, he was co-owner and co-founder of Motive Creative, a digital production facility specializing in theatrical trailers and media campaigns in Hollywood, California. He also served as the principal of Jeffrey T. Forte Investigations, which specializes in forensic work, witness interviews, and expert-witness support.
In addition to his gifts to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Forte provided $5 million in 2019 for research in the Department of Neurosurgery and to establish the Margery Campbell Forte Professorship in Neurological Surgery, named in memory of his mother.
Coincidentally, Forte’s latest gift to the ophthalmology department was scheduled for October 6, which would have been his mother’s 96th birthday. Our mother was a very philanthropic and giving person, said Liz Dorr, Fortes’s sister, who helps coordinate her philanthropy. He would have been very proud of Jeff’s commitment to advancing medical research.
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