Foundation capital

Foundation Fighting Blindness Announces Leadership Changes

Jason Menzo appointed general manager


Russell KelleyPhD, MBA, appointed Managing Director of the RD Fund


Ben YerxaPhD, to lead Opus Genetics, the first spin-off company supported by the RD Fund and the Foundation


COLUMBIA, MD., June 21, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The Foundation Fighting Blindness, the world’s leading organization committed to finding treatments and cures for blinding retinal diseases, today announced the promotion of Jason Menzo to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Foundation and Russell KelleyPhD, MBA, to the Managing Director of the Retinal Degeneration (RD) Fund, the venture capital arm of the Foundation, as of July 1, 2022. Ben YerxaPhD, who has served as the Foundation’s CEO since 2017, will be transitioning to take on the role of permanent CEO of Opus Genetics, the first spin-off company designed and launched internally by the RD Fund to further the Foundation’s mission.



“I am exceptionally proud of the progress we have made on our mission during my nearly five years at the Foundation, including the launch of the RD Fund to advance the Foundation’s mission through philanthropy. of risk,” said Dr. Yerxa. “Entering into the permanent role of CEO of Opus Genetics – a company we created and launched through the RD Fund – allows me to be on the front lines of bringing potentially revolutionary treatments to patients who need them if urgent.


Dr Yerxa continued, “Under the able leadership of Jason, Rusty and the rest of the Foundation’s team and Board of Directors, I am confident that the Foundation and the RD Fund will continue to thrive and do great things. progress towards curing blinding retinal diseases, and I look forward to continuing my collaboration with them in my new role.”


“We thank Ben for his incredible service to the Foundation. He was the right person at the right time for the Foundation, and we are pleased that he remains close to the organization as he leads Opus Genetics. We look forward to working with Jason and Rusty in their new roles as Foundation CEO and RD Fund Managing Director, respectively,” said David Brint, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation and member of the Board of Directors of the RD Fund. “Jason and Rusty each have the expertise and confidence of their teams, patients and boards to build on current direction and strategies to move each organization’s work forward.”


Since joining the Foundation in 2018, Mr. Menzo has had a profound positive impact in redefining the operations and engagement of the nonprofit organization, including tax operations, fundraising, awareness, communication and management. He is recognized by his colleagues and constituents for his passionate leadership style and his ability to create innovative partnerships. In addition to being involved in the formation of the RD Fund, Mr. Menzo is one of the founders of Opus Genetics. Mr. Menzo was elevated to President and Chief Operating Officer of the Foundation in January 2022. Prior to the Foundation, he spent nearly 20 years in various leadership positions in the eye care industry and has an intimate understanding of the space and the key players in it.


“We are grateful for Ben’s leadership in advancing therapies to treat retinal disease and highlighting the voice of patients – both during his tenure at the Foundation and the RD Fund, as well as throughout his career. over three decades, translating research into clinical-stage and commercial eye products,” Menzo said. “That’s the beauty of the venture philanthropy model we pioneered with the RD Fund. We can collaborate closely, identify needs, and respond transparently to advance the shared missions of our organizations to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those in our I am honored to continue this momentum for the Foundation, with Rusty at the head of the DR Fund, and our respective management teams.


Dr. Kelley helped launch the DR Fund and was instrumental in building a portfolio of new technologies, including genetic drugs. He is a pharmacologist who brings more than 25 years of experience in advancing life science technologies to his new leadership role. Dr. Kelley most recently served as the RD Fund’s Senior Vice President of Investments and Alliances, responsible for identifying and managing external investment opportunities. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2018, Dr. Kelley led several initiatives at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to address funding gaps in interdisciplinary and translational medicine while earning an Executive MBA from duke university. His experience also includes previous scientific and industry leadership roles spanning preclinical and clinical discovery and development in multiple therapeutic areas. Among his board roles for several holding companies, Dr. Kelley is one of the founding directors of Opus Genetics.


“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the RD Fund to connect capital, especially that of concerned donors, with new technologies and therapies that can treat rare, inherited and underserved retinal degenerative diseases,” said Dr Kelley. “Our business model, with anchor donors Gordon Gund and Paul Manning, has catalyzed the development of patient-supported companies, including Opus Genetics, Atsena Therapeutics, Nacuity Pharmaceuticals, Vedere Bio and SparingVision, funded by the RD Fund and previously supported by the Foundation. We look forward to elevating existing and new projects aimed at bringing life-changing results to people with retinal diseases. »


About the Fighting Blindness Foundation


Established in 1971, the Foundation Fighting Blindness is the world’s leading source of private funding for research into degenerative diseases of the retina. The Foundation raised more than $856 million as part of its mission to accelerate research to prevent, treat and cure blindness caused by the full spectrum of blinding retinal diseases, including: retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration and Usher syndrome. Visit FightingBlindness.org for more information.


About the DR Fund


The RD Fund (Retinal Degeneration Fund) is the venture arm of the Foundation Fighting Blindness and a leading investor in the field of inherited retinal diseases. It was established in 2018 to serve the Foundation’s mission of rapidly directing research toward preventions, treatments, and cures for the full spectrum of blinding retinal diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, and retinal syndrome. ‘Usher. RD Fund focuses on mission-related investments in companies whose projects are close to clinical trials. Visit RDFund.org for more information.


About Opus Genetics


Opus Genetics is a breakthrough gene therapy company for inherited retinal diseases with a unique model and focus. Backed by the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ venture capital arm, the RD Fund, Opus combines unparalleled vision and commitment to patient needs with wholly owned programs in numerous orphan retinal diseases. Its portfolio of AAV-based gene therapies tackles some of the most overlooked forms of inherited blindness while creating new scale and orphan manufacturing efficiency. Situated at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, the company draws on the best scientific knowledge and the expertise of pioneers in ocular gene therapy to provide patients with transformative treatments in a transparent way. For more information, visit http://www.opusgenetics.com.


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