Alzheimer's Matters Blog

The $3.3 Billion Case for Venture Philanthropy

December 4, 2014

Category: ADDF Impact


Recently, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) received a record-breaking $3.3 billion return on its $150 million investment in Vertex Pharmaceuticals and a smaller business it acquired. Even more impressive: the CFF’s early and continuous investment led to the development of the first FDA-approved drug to treat the root causes of cystic fibrosis, rather than the lung disease’s symptoms.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and the CFF were among the very first venture philanthropies when we each adopted the approach in the late 1990s. Venture philanthropies offer funding as investments and all returns received are funneled directly into funding more research. The ADDF has seen increasing success with the approach, with more than $3.6 million in venture philanthropy returns reinvested in Alzheimer’s drug discovery. Moreover, we’ve played a critical role in moving hundreds of Alzheimer’s drug candidates through the drug discovery pipeline.

To match the success we’ve seen from our friends at the CFF, we are planning some major steps forward. 

  • Scaling up our investments in drug discovery. The CFF received a huge return—and, more importantly, discovered a game-changing drug for cystic fibrosis—because they were able to make major investments in early-stage drug research. We need your help to continue to increase our drug discovery investments and move closer to a cure.

  • Continuing to build a strong scientific staff. The ADDF is proud to have an in-house team of neuroscientists with both doctorates and medical degrees. As we increase our investments in Alzheimer’s drug discovery, we will strengthen our core of scientific expertise.

  • Building more partnerships with like-minded organizations. We’re pleased to partner with leaders in the public and private sector—from nonprofits like the Alzheimer’s Society UK to pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer. Continuing to forge these relationships is critical to our long-term success.

I firmly believe that an effective treatment, and a cure, for Alzheimer’s disease is within our reach—and I am confident that venture philanthropy will help us to get there.

Howard Fillit, MD is the Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer at the ADDF.