MDA For Strength Independence & Life

Hope Through Research

At MDA, we take a big picture perspective across the full spectrum of neuromuscular diseases to uncover scientific and medical breakthroughs that accelerate treatments and cures. The power in our research approach is that we can often apply learnings from one disease to progress in others to bring urgently-needed answers to our families.

MDA Venture Philanthropy

MDA Venture Philanthropy (MVP) is the Muscular Dystrophy Association's drug development program, which operates within MDA's Translational Research program. MVP is exclusively focused on funding the discovery and clinical application of treatments and cures for neuromuscular diseases.

Adapting elements of the venture capital model, the MVP business plan is characterized by an emphasis on measurable results along with deep involvement by its scientific and industry advisers. MVP evaluates and makes targeted investments in for-profit and not-for-profit companies and academics developing therapeutics for neuromuscular diseases.

Building upon MDA's long-term investment in research and health care, MVP is designed to complement MDA's ongoing programs of health care, lifesaving services, advocacy, basic and clinical research, and professional and public health information. MVP also benefits from MDA's other research programs that support basic research, clinical trials and research infrastructure.

Business Plan

A strategy for lowering barriers to therapeutic development: MVP leverages MDA's years of expertise in research into nerve and muscle biology to create a unique environment to foster translation of research into therapies. Dedicated staff scientists track research developments from MDA's basic research program and from the scientific community as a whole and match the most promising ideas with drug development companies capable of developing such therapies. Where companies have promising therapeutics, MVP helps match the company with disease experts to expedite and streamline development. Where academic projects need more data before they will be attractive to a corporate partner, MVP helps match the researcher with experts in drug development. As a "partner" and not just a funder, MVP will help to cultivate follow-on investors, while its access to patients, experts and research infrastructure can offset some costs of drug development.  

Bridging the high-risk stages of therapy development: MVP makes targeted investments in projects for which the therapeutic of interest is unlikely to advance via traditional funding avenues due to the perceived risk of a small market, lack of a clear regulatory path or new technology. MVP funds are leveraged to aid getting projects through the critical stages of development to ensure that successful therapies attract funding from other sources and get to market. Co-investors and follow-on funders with complementary skills are cultivated actively in the form of venture capital groups, other nonprofits, and larger biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Exit points for MVP funding may include the situations in which 1) a therapeutic progresses to phase III or is approved; or 2) significant funding from follow-on investor(s) is received. Return on investment strategies for MVP may include revenue sharing from licensing agreements or commercialization of the therapeutic, or less commonly, sales of preferred stock.

MVP uses elements of the venture capital model: MVP uses an iterative evaluation process that reviews the science, management, financials, legal issues and intellectual property of the company or project. MVP holds monthly teleconferences open to its advisers at which decisions to advance projects to the next stage of evaluation are made. In addition to the diverse qualifications of MVP's program staff, advisory committees and ad hoc scientific experts, MVP may utilize well-established outside contractors for formal financial and legal diligence. MVP manages its grants as if they were investments such that funding commitments are structured as milestone-driven contracts.

A unique blend of staff, contractors and volunteers: MVP has access to a unique set of expertise that it uses to select projects to invest in and to manage those projects. The scientific advisers consist of experts in neuromuscular disease research, neuromuscular medicine, biotechnology venture capital investment and drug development. MVP staff scientists work with these volunteers to select projects with the best possible chance of success, and to act as advisers as those projects move forward. MVP uses its business advisers and outside contractors for legal and financial diligence and for contract negotiation, ensuring that MVP invests only in projects likely to have the greatest possible impact. The business advisers are volunteers with expertise in mergers and acquisitions, biotechnology investing, investment banking and corporate development.

For information on how to apply to the MDA Venture Philanthropy program, please visit Grant Types and click on MVP.

For funding inquiries, contact Grace Pavlath, Ph.D., Senior Vice President & Scientific Program Director at gpavlath@mdausa.org.

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