- Our Story
- In Memory
The Venture Approach to Medical Research
Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (CAF) was born from the collective impatience of our four founding members with the pace of research into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. These visionaries used their experience in venture capital, banking and commercial real estate to create an innovative model for funding medical research that follows four fundamental steps:
1. Find the visionaries.
“The really great venture capitalists are proactive, not reactive. They identify the best entrepreneurial talent, sell themselves to those leaders, and find the best ways to support them in attaining their vision.”
Henry McCance, co-founder and board member, CAF; chairman emeritus, Greylock Partners
The founding board members of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund did their due diligence to gather the most successful and innovative scientists in Alzheimer’s research. Because Alzheimer’s is a genetically driven disease, the founders looked for leading geneticists and identified Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School to head up the research efforts. They asked Rudy to recruit similarly successful, innovative researchers to form a Research Consortium to support a Research Roadmap that would expeditiously lead to preventing, slowing, stopping and/or reversing Alzheimer’s disease. These visionaries already have contributed significant value because they are supported by CAF’s Scientific Advisory Board to produce truly breakthrough research.
2. Support the visionaries with top executive leadership to minimize bureaucracy and maximize productivity.
“Cure Alzheimer’s Fund focuses on results, not process.”
Jacqui Morby, co-founder and director, CAF; senior adviser, TA Associates
The founders recruited executive leaders to design and implement funding protocols that would minimize process and maximize impact; and to assist in targeted fundraising characterized by clear definition of need, transparency and timely reporting.
3. Use resources where they will be most effective; establish a frugal culture.
“As a founder and board chairman, I want to make sure that all contributions go directly to pay for high-quality research—not into an endowment, not for overhead or any indirect costs; just research.”
Jeff Morby, co-founder and chairman, CAF; former vice chairman, Mellon Bank
The founders pay all the overhead costs for the foundation. Even so, we keep administrative costs, including fundraising, to less than 20 percent of all funds raised. We do not support bricks and mortar for ourselves or our host institutions. All our researchers are affiliated with first-rank academic institutions, and foundation activities are directed from modest rented facilities.
4. Dare to be great.
“Like generations before us ended the threat of polio, we want to end Alzheimer’s for future generations.”
Phyllis Rappaport, co-founder and director, CAF; chair of the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Charitable Foundation; director, New Boston Fund Inc.
Cure Alzheimer’s Fund research is not focused on incremental progress, but instead on making a “long pass down field” for a significant impact. Much of the research we fund is too innovative to be backed by the government or larger, more risk-averse foundations or other funders. Risk, however, does not trump scientific integrity. Some of our projects have demonstrated proof of concept and have grown into much bigger grants funded by the government or larger foundations. Some have helped change the Alzheimer’s research field’s understanding of the disease’s pathology. And others have established new paradigms for understanding the very basic causes of Alzheimer’s. We aim to build a wealth of knowledge of Alzheimer’s origins through high-value and high-impact research. We seek no profit for our founders, investors, researchers or others, but rather see the prevention, slowing, stopping and/or reversing Alzheimer’s disease as our reward.