- World-class philanthropist and long-time Michael J. Fox Foundation Board member Lily Safra, chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, passed away on July 9, 2022, at age 87
- Mrs. Safra’s transformative generosity and leadership supported a wide range of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s scientific programs and accomplishments
NEW YORK (July 21, 2022) — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) mourns the loss of visionary philanthropist and Foundation Board member Lily Safra, who passed away on Saturday, July 9, 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. As chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, Mrs. Safra provided transformative support to hundreds of organizations around the world in the name of her late husband, Edmond J. Safra. Her philanthropy extended to education, science and medicine, religion, culture and humanitarian relief.
Edmond J. Safra lived with Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Mrs. Safra was deeply committed to finding a cure. Within months of MJFF’s inception, she joined the Foundation’s Board of Directors, setting in motion an outpouring of strategic grant-making over the next two decades that transformed the course of Parkinson’s disease research and care.
“Lily’s friendship was instrumental in establishing our path and expanding our work further than we could have dreamed,” said Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan. “She sharpened our vision and lent us her strength so that we might make a greater difference in the lives of all people and families touched by Parkinson’s disease. We will be grateful forever.”
A Longstanding Partnership and Vision for the Future of Parkinson’s Research and Care
Mrs. Safra’s personal generosity, paired with her leadership of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, provided sustained support for MJFF’s top scientific and care priorities, including:
- In 2003, Mrs. Safra’s visionary support allowed MJFF to establish the Edmond J. Safra Global Genetics Consortia resulting in the first genome-wide association study of Parkinson’s, a vital step in identifying genetic changes linked to the disease. Over subsequent years this program would come to revolutionize scientific understanding of the genetics of PD, opening avenues of research still avidly pursued to this day.
- In 2007, the Edmond J. Safra Foundation backed MJFF’s LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions) program, an innovative funding model that provided multi-year, multi-million-dollar grants to “all-star” research teams to solve urgent questions in PD diagnosis or treatment. This support enabled research on alpha-synuclein — a protein that clumps in the brains of nearly all 6 million people worldwide who live with Parkinson’s — marking the start of an ongoing partnership that would propel this then-emerging field of research on its path to becoming the most important therapeutic target in Parkinson’s.
- In 2010, Mrs. Safra provided the first individual leadership gift to MJFF’s landmark clinical study, the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). Since then, PPMI has changed how research is done and what scientists know about the brain. It is a cornerstone of our understanding of disease and has heavily influenced clinical trial design and spurred a significant increase in industry investment in PD. The study’s considerable growth is possible because of the uninterrupted flow of support from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and Mrs. Safra.
- In 2012, Mrs. Safra facilitated Jewels For Hope, auctioning her personal collection of jewels for the benefit of 32 charitable organizations, including a $1-million donation to MJFF. That same year, MJFF dedicated its largest meeting space, the locus of countless scientific decisions and creative ingenuity, in memory of Edmond J. Safra. Mrs. Safra and Michael J. Fox dedicated the room in a memorable dedication ceremony attended by Board, leadership, staff and members of the Parkinson’s community.
- In 2014, as part of an effort to address the worldwide shortage of movement disorder specialists — neurologists with additional training in Parkinson’s and other movement disorders — the Edmond J. Safra Foundation partnered with MJFF to establish The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders. The program provides funding for clinical centers to train more clinician-researcher neurologists worldwide, effectively growing the global base of movement disorder specialists treating people with Parkinson’s and contributing to research toward new and improved treatments. The Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders is on track to graduate 72 new PD specialists by 2028.
To honor Mrs. Safra for her decades-long commitment to speeding a Parkinson’s cure and bettering quality of life for the millions of people and families living with the disease, MJFF created the inaugural Edmond J. Safra Humanitarian Award in 2020.
“There are no words to adequately convey our grief at this loss. Mrs. Safra was a true giant of philanthropy and someone we have been privileged to know and work with from the beginning,” said Deborah W. Brooks, MJFF Co-Founder and CEO. “Her trust in our shared vision gave us the confidence to pursue even the most far-reaching objectives, and her outspoken support opened the door to opportunities we never imagined. Her compassionate spirit will remain a constant source of inspiration for us all.”
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF)
As the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson's disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson's patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding $1.5 billion in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson's research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; creates a robust open- access data set and biosample library to speed scientific breakthroughs and treatment with its landmark clinical study, PPMI; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson's disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson's awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world. For more information, visit us at michaeljfox.org, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation