Private Equity-Like Fund Aims to Speed Up Diabetes Research
Dave Johnson says his immediate reaction to his daughter’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at age 4 was typical of any father’s.
“It was my baby girl, and my response was I’m going to fix it or pay someone to fix it,” said Mr. Johnson, president and chief executive of the hotel management company Aimbridge Hospitality. “I dove in, spoke to some smart people. But then, I was hit between the eyes that there wasn’t a lot that I was going to be able to do.”
That was 22 years ago, and what he did do was volunteer with gusto, organizing fund-raisers in the Dallas area where he lived and working his way up to membership on the executive committee of the international board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the main nonprofit group making grants and evaluating research on the disease.
But recently, Mr. Johnson did something that appealed to his business side: He and his wife gave $1 million to a new nonprofit organization, the foundation’s T1D Fund, which invests in companies doing research into Type 1 diabetes. Any financial returns are used to make more investments.
“The fund is extremely transparent and crystal clear in its mission,” Mr. Johnson said. “We have a quarterly call and get updates when we’re making investments. It’s run similar to a for-profit.”
Structured like a private equity fund, the T1D Fund has a minimum donation of $500,000. The fund, which received $32 million in seed funding from the foundation, has a goal of reaching $80 million. It already has $55 million.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that attacks the panc Continue reading