Macula Vision Research Foundation puts focus on research –
If there’s one statement that’s bound to attract Palm Beach donors, it’s the label that’s attached to every piece of literature distributed by Macula Vision Research Foundation.

“One hundred percent of every dollar donated goes directly to research.”

That’s impressive, and that’s because this foundation, dedicated to finding cures for blindness caused by retinal diseases such as macular degeneration, has all its administrative costs totally funded by a family foundation.

“All expenses are paid by the foundation started by Herb and Karen Lotman,” says Keith Lampman, executive director of the foundation, while sipping a Coke at The Breakers. He was in town recently to promote his organization, which counts singer and Palm Beacher Vic Damone among its supporters.

It does blow you away to look at comparative pie charts on the foundation’s pamphlets that show the typical nonprofit organization as devoting about 65 percent of its money to research, while using 20 percent for fundraising and 15 percent for management expenses.

The chart shows 100 percent of donor dollars going to research.

“We’re unique,” says Lampman. Without doing a detailed study, I have to agree. There aren’t many nonprofits in a position to put all their donations directly into research. The only one I found after a quick Internet search was Palm Beach Public School Orchestral Strings Foundation.

“We have a significant base from the Palm Beach island,” Lampman said, adding that he expects to set up events during the winter to increase awareness of his nonprofit group. It’s part of the effort to go from being a little-known family foundation to becoming “truly national.”

It is so aware of its mission that its website,, allows viewers to adjust the type size as they’re reading about research and news events.

It also has an international scientific advisory board that includes Dr. Philip J. Rosenfeld, a professor of ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. This group advises the foundation on grants and research to pursue.

The foundation funded a gene therapy trial in Israel recently that has led to restoring better vision in participants who suffer from a rare disease known as Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. It is caused by a defective gene that blinds those who suffer with it.

Says Rosenfeld, the foundation “is a unique organization in the way they devote all donations to research, and in this way they invite the best (age-related macular degeneration) researchers in the world to apply for funding.

“All the applications are peer-reviewed by a world-class panel of scientists and clinicians so only the most exciting and promising research gets funded. Donors can be assured that all of their donations will be given to research (age-related macular degeneration) and related diseases.”

But what is age-related macular degeneration? Some of us might be familiar with the push to eat foods that contain antioxidants, lutein and omega 3 fatty acids as a means of preventing this condition that can lead to blindness. Since the cause of macular degeneration is not really known, prevention is iffy, but there’s really no downside to eating salmon, green leafy vegetables and fruits, which are thought to be helpful.

Macular degeneration can progressively destroy the cells located in the macula, the central portion of the retina. The light-sensitive cells of the macula generate the high-resolution and color vision we depend on for everyday activities, including reading, driving, and recognizing familiar faces.

Blindness is a frightening prospect for many who are willing to underwrite research.

“People who have disposable income still are giving,” Lampman says, “and we have to prove to them that we are the most efficient in using their donations.”



The original article by Carolyn Susman can be found on the Palm Beach Daily News Website by clicking here.