The Johnson Foundation of Jamestown, New York, has made a generous gift of $100,000 to the University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center to help find new treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The Johnson Foundation was created by the late John Alfred Johnson in 1996, and has been administered by Jamestown attorney John L. Sellstrom, co-trustee, and Carole Sellstrom, executive director of the foundation.
Born in Sweden, around the turn of the 20th Century, Johnson moved to Jamestown in his twenties and eventually became an American citizen. He worked as a laborer, and moonlighted building houses with his older brother Oscar, who had also immigrated to Jamestown. Neither married or had children, and both lived simply and invested their earnings well. "John's only indulgence was to buy a new Buick every three years," says John Sellstrom. After Oscar's death, John lived alone for the remainder of his life, and he created the Johnson Foundation to serve the people of Jamestown, in particular children and the elderly. Johnson died in 1996, and stipulated that the foundation should be spent down over a 20-year period, at which point it will be disbanded.
Near the end of his life, Johnson developed AMD, which progressed to the point that he could no longer drive. "He came in to my office, put the keys to his new Buick on my desk, and said, ‘please sell this. I can't drive or I'll hit someone,'" says Sellstrom. "By the end of his life, he was almost completely blind."
The Johnson Foundation has been a generous supporter of Moran's AMD research for several years. The Sellstroms were first introduced to Randall J. Olson, M.D., CEO of the Moran Eye Center, through Franklin Forsburg, a former Ambassador to Sweden, who attended the University of Utah and is friends with Olson. Although the majority of the foundation's gifts benefit nonprofits in Jamestown and Chautauqua County, the Sellstroms chose to make gifts to the Moran Eye Center, knowing that John would appreciate the support of researchers dedicated to finding a cure for AMD.
The Johnson Foundation's gift will advance AMD research being done by Gregory Hageman, PhD, Executive Director of the Moran Center for Translational Medicine (CTM). The CTM was established in 2009 to more quickly and cost-effectively turn scientific discoveries into clinically effective diagnostics and therapies for blinding eye conditions.