“I do see a day when I will be unable to walk on my own.”
These are the sobering words of Chip Wilson, the billionaire famous for founding Vancouver’s iconic brand Lululemon. Known for confidence and success, Wilson was hit with diagnosis of Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy type 2 in his early 30s. He has since shifted his focus from capitalizing on fashion and fitness to his own personal health.
But Wilson doesn’t just want to help himself. He does not want anyone to suffer from FSHD ever again.
Now in his 60s, Wilson this month announced that he has committed $100 million to create a new venture. This new project, called Solve FSHD, is crystal clear in its mission of finding a cure for FSHD—ideally by 2027.
“Solve FSHD will accelerate the underfunded development of drugs and therapies to stop muscle degeneration, increase muscle strength and improve the quality of life for those living with this,” Wilson said in a statement.
Currently, there is no cure for FSHD, a genetic disorder that has varying symptoms, severity, and progression. According to the Mayo Clinic, muscle weakness usually starts in the face, hip and shoulders. Onset typically occurs in the teenage years but can begin in childhood.
Dr. Jeffrey Statland, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, says FSHD is one of the most prevalent adult muscular dystrophies.
“The investments of Solve FSHD now to help validate biomarkers and develop new therapies will pay dividends later for any company or researcher pursuing better therapies for FSHD,” noted Dr. Statland, who has conducted clinical and research training in neuromuscular diseases. “These investments form the foundation to support future clinical trials and serve as a seed for further funding and investment.”
Wilson, in true form, is tackling this challenge his way.
“Solve FSHD will support projects that normally wouldn’t receive funding, including bottlenecks in the pipeline,” he explained. “We can move quickly and pursue multiple projects simultaneously.”
The spry serial entrepreneur lost his ability to play squash in his late 50s due to not being able to lift the racquet over his head. Wilson has since turned to the Grouse Grind, an infamously steep trek up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, to get his high.
“I love the endorphin rush,” he told Global News.
Scientists, biopharma companies, muscular degeneration specialists, and researchers working in muscular dystrophy fields are all encouraged to contact Solve FSHD, according to Wilson.
“I prefer not to sit in the stands but go out on the courts with my time and money to help this important cause so very close to my heart,” he said.