That focus on effectiveness produces great results, and today—on World Asthma Day—it seems fitting to share how the Sandlers’ philanthropy has revolutionized asthma research, a focus area their philanthropy supports.
A personal struggle with asthma inspires a focus on helping all those affectedWhile Marion’s own struggle with asthma originally put asthma on the Sandlers’ philanthropic radar, Herb says, “from the beginning [we knew] that we would not make any breakthroughs during our lifetime.” Indeed, the Sandlers recognized asthma as a pervasive and critical health issue. According to the American Asthma Foundation, which was established with support from the Sandler Foundation, asthma causes 3,500 deaths in the United States each year and affects 300 million people across the globe, many of whom are children. In fact, asthma is the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States, which, Herb points out, disproportionately affects low-income children living in inner city areas. In such areas, according to the AAF, asthma has “sky-rocketed.”
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Big grants, short applications, fast turnaround times—and ideas from every quarterThe Sandlers, under the American Asthma Foundation Research Program’s national asthma grants program, kickstarted breakthrough research with a three-pronged approach: big grants, short applications, and fast turnaround times. To court innovative researchers and their most promising ideas, the Sandlers offered grants "that would get [researchers] attention," says Herb. They also created a short grant application and instituted a fast approval process. Herb points out that this was in stark contrast to the typically thick applications that researchers had to complete for most grants and the long approval waiting periods that went with them.
The response was overwhelming. “We were turning down Nobel laureates,” says Herb. Because the Sandlers’ philanthropic strategy was built on investing over a long time horizon, they also funded significant amounts of “basic” asthma research through the Sandler Asthma Basic Research Center at UCSF (SABRE). To help assess the progress of this research, Sandler uses a separate, expert advisory board.
Unprecedented resultsSince focusing on asthma in the late 1990s, Herb is extremely proud of the success they’ve seen. For example, the American Asthma Foundation currently has five drugs in clinical trials as a result of its research program. Sandler points to these drug trials (with more in the wings) and other breakthroughs as a result of the program: “I want you to know, that’s never, ever, ever, ever been done, that in that period of time you've gotten that number of drugs into clinical trials. Related
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