Vancouver billionaire Chip Wilson's Solve FSHD foundation has hired Eva Chin as its executive director, and started to approve projects for funding.
Wilson in March committed spending $100 million to fund projects to find a cure for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), which the 67-year-old has suffered from for the past 35 years.
"Cures are hard to find," Chin told BIV, before adding that the investments in five projects shortlisted so far will more likely help create effective treatments for the disease.
The shortlisted projects are in the U.S. and Europe. Four of the projects involve developing biomarkers "that are used by people doing clinical trials to help facilitate running better clinical trials of new therapies," Chin said.
The fifth investment is a start-up company based in the U.S. that will have Chin on its board of directors.
Her background includes nine years at Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) where she focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms of muscle function and aimed to discover and develop muscle-targeted therapies.
She then became an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, and for part of her time there was simultaneously the chief science officer at Myotherapeutics, which was a start-up treating chronic muscle disorders such as muscular dystrophy.
Most recently, Chin has been a consultant at NMD Pharma, which discovers and develops novel therapeutics for neuromuscular diseases.
She said that Solve FSHD is reviewing many of the approximately 45 applications for funding that it has so far received. Chin expects that her foundation will spend about $80 million in the next three years on projects. The remaining $20 million that Wilson has committed would then be spent in the following three years.
"It's really to be catalysts, and be that burst of investment to companies," she said. "Then to manage those investments through six years, and hopefully align the startup companies with larger-company partnerships, so that the larger companies eventually take the drugs to market."
Chin works alongside project manager Jeremy Gawryluk at the Wilson family's Hold It All headquarters at 21 Water Street.
The foundation is not hiring, although Chin said that she plans to work through consultants.