BrightFocus Gives Big to Alzheimer’s and Eye Disease Research

Formerly known as the American Health Assistance Foundation, the Clarksburg, MD-based BrightFocus Foundation has given away over $130 million since its start in 1973. Though it has programs that seek to address macular degeneration and glaucoma, its Alzheimer’s research program gets the bulk of its funding, giving away about $4 million per year to worthy recipients.

As foundations go, BrightFocus is remarkably transparent, showing off all of its recent grant recipients and providing links to their research from their website—and it, like others, favors funding newbie researchers whose ideas are good but whose work isn’t yet eligible for the wider world of big industrial and governmental grants.

Recently, the foundation announced grants totaling more than $11 million to take on Alzheimer’s disease and such vision diseases as macular degeneration. Alzheimer’s is getting $5.9 million towards research projects approved by the foundation, while eye disorders nets $5.1 million.

Recent data indicates that Alzheimer’s is now the country’s third leading cause of death. Five million Americans have the disease, a number that could triple by mid-century. Forbes magazine recently called it “the most expensive condition in the nation.” So BrightFocus’s support of Alzheimer’s research is timely.

BrightFocus has committed more than $150 million for research over the last four decades, with nearly $38 million of that awarded over the last five years, and lately, Alzheimer’s research has received the bulk of its funding. The amounts awarded are a little more proportionate in this round, but past evidence suggests Alzheimer’s takes a higher priority among the folks at BrightFocus.

"As the baby boomers age, these diseases will take a growing toll on families and taxpayers," said BrightFocus Foundation president and CEO Stacy Pagos Haller. "BrightFocus is proud to support some of the most promising research and innovative scientists in the world."

According to BrightFocus, “The names and projects of this year’s individual grant recipients will be announced at a later date, pending completion of final agreements with researchers and supporting institutions.”