Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Jonathan Silverstein’s life is one marked by triumph and success. The 49 year old investor’s most prominent achievement is OrbiMed, a firm dedicated to scouting and supporting cutting-edge health solutions for a range of conditions. However, a recent diagnosis has given the venture capitalist a personal motivation to continue his already substantial contributions to the world of medicine.
Parkinson’s disease is a vicious degenerative disorder that, over time, ravages the central nervous system of patients. Sufferers are plagued with loss of motor control, depression, sensory and sleep problems, with the disease eventually culminating in dementia. The causes of the condition are largely unknown, and while measures for prevention and management do exist, there is no known cure.
It was under these circumstances that Silverstein, at a young and healthy 49, was diagnosed with a especially aggressive form of the disease which contains a genetic mutation known as GBA. This rarer variant affects as many as 100,000 patients around the globe. Rather than settle into the relative comfort of an early retirement, the prominent investor has instead chosen to lead his own battle against the condition, not just for himself, but for thousands of sufferers around the world.
Mr. Silverstein sees venture capitalists as problem solvers, and is therefore pooling his wealth of experience and connections in the healthcare industry to give much needed support to projects dedicated to conquering the disease. Silverstein, along with his wife, Natalie, went to work immediately and set up the Silverstein Foundation, a nonprofit with a three-pronged mission: find ways of slowing the progression of Parkinson’s with the GBA mutation, develop therapies that repair its damage, and find preventative treatments to stop the disease from surfacing entirely.
Just a few months from its founding, the Silverstein Foundation is already garnering plenty of investor support, not unlike its founder’s commercial projects. Initial efforts generated $6 million of investor contributions, with the Silversteins adding $10 million of their own money. The organization received tips and reports on hundreds of potential investment projects, some more practical than others, with Silverstein whittling the group down to about 80 or so of the most promising projects and avenues of research.
To date, the Silverstein Foundation has issued grants to six laboratories and institutions actively working to develop the cures needed to meet the organization’s stated goals, with more funding to other research projects on the way.