To power rare disease research, medical innovation, and humanitarian collaborations to improve the health of underserved communities.


To work toward a world free of ultra-rare disease.

Covid Recovery Grant
Research Grant Call for Proposal
Rare Disease Advisory Board

Foundation Mission

Identify unmet needs and impact research and patients directly.

The RTW Charitable Foundation is proud to support pioneers who are breaking new ground in the fight against diseases that may not represent compelling commercial opportunities, but do result in significant human suffering.

The Foundation is able to provide capital, manpower, and logistical support to help scientists push such projects forward. In addition, the Foundation aims to assist in advocacy, disease awareness and directly support patients and their families.

Grant Progams

Scientific Research

Advance research to develop therapeutics for rare diseases

Policy & Education

Prove and articulate the value of medical innovation


Fund science and health-based initiatives in NYC and abroad

Our Most Recent Work

COVID-19 Relief Effort

This winter RTW Charitable Foundation has completed its first grant cycle, totaling $1 million of gifts across 12 organizations fighting COVID-19, and the pandemic’s impact on New Yorkers. To learn more about grantees and their work please follows us on social media:

What's New

Investing in Human Lives

The RTW Charitable Foundation represents an extension of our investment firm mission.  Our research process helps us identify important causes of human suffering, and introduces us to individuals and organizations trying to make a difference.

To our research grant recipients, we can offer not only financial support, but also guidance gleaned from our experience in drug development and company building.

Beyond research, the Foundation can offer support to humanitarian causes, initiatives that raise disease awareness and programs with a direct patient impact.

Fueling Innovation
And Beyond

While the Foundation will support research in more common disease areas and humanitarian causes, the Foundation has an initial focus of supporting rare disease research and education. Drug development research for rare diseases often lacks the funding needed to learn if a treatment is effective and safe.  In addition, some conditions are so rare that no profit model exists to bring such treatments to market.  The Foundation believes that the lack of profit should not be a deterrent to promising treatments that can impact the lives of many living with rare diseases. Priority areas will be proposed annually and may include specific rare disease areas of focus.
Priority Focus Areas
For Unmet Needs
Pediatric rare diseases
Rare diseases in CNS & Cardiovascular System
COVID-related support

Valuing What Matters

The RTW Foundation is specifically directed to prioritize benefits to patients over financial reward. Our dedicated staff know that only part of the struggle to relieve patients’ suffering takes place in laboratories. Many of the diseases we target affect not only patients but their families as well, often in devastating ways. We aid these families by:


information and coordinating assistance


for patients whose voices might not otherwise be heard


public awareness

RTW Charitable Foundation Team

Foundation Leadership

Deborah Slipetz

Executive Director
Deborah Slipetz

Executive Director

Deborah is responsible for leading the foundation and executing on its strategic mission to improve opportunities for all people to live healthier, longer lives.

Prior to joining RTWCF, Deborah Slipetz was at Merck and has 30 years of experience as a drug hunterscientist and executive leader in the pharmaceutical industry. She was part of the team that invented SingulairTM for asthma and has brought an additional 25 drug candidates into clinical trials. Deborah has a depth and breadth of experience in drug discovery across multiple therapeutic areas. She recently served as executive director, In-Vivo Pharmacology responsible for cardiovascular, diabetes, neuroscience, infectious diseases, respiratory, immunology and oncology therapeutic areas. Her core biology expertise lies within the respiratory and immunology area, where she held the position of therapeutic area lead.

Deborah most recently co-founded and served as the executive director of imagine@Merck, a transformative innovation engine that attracts thinkers and doers who seek to challenge the status quo by providing the framework to unleash and amplify their ingenuity to amplify change. This business unit served as a platform for employees to communicate and collaborate to drive change and identify solutions to pressing issues not only in drug development, but enterprise-wide. Her team was recognized by “Fast Company” in 2020 as one of the most “Innovative Teams”.

Deborah has a B.Sc. in cell and molecular biology, a M.Sc. in molecular genetics and a Ph.D. in pharmacology, all from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

“I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to work for the RTW Charitable Foundation. I have a unique opportunity to take my drug development experience and passion for innovation to focus on funding cutting edge research for rare diseases. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running and serving the patients and communities who are at the heart of our mission at RTWCF.”

Nate Pelsma

Chief Operating Officer
Nate Pelsma

Chief Operating Officer

Nate is responsible for leading the operations of the RTW Charitable Foundation as well as directing the education and policy elements of the foundation’s mission.

Prior to RTW, Nate was CFO and COO of JMG, a youth workforce development organization, and Teach Plus, a national teacher leadership organization. He taught for eight years as an adjunct professor of nonprofit management at the Carroll Graduate School of Management at Boston College. Prior to working at Teach Plus, he was an economist for Analysis Group. Nate started his nonprofit career at City Year where he managed national corporate partnerships. In addition, prior to joining the RTW team, Nate served as an independent board director for RTW’s private funds.

Nate has an MBA from Boston College and a BA in English from the University of Kansas.

"These are the early days of a scientific renaissance, and at RTW we are investing in the companies that will have a profound impact on humanity. It is humbling and awe-inspiring to witness this transformation and to be that critical connection between entrepreneurs and patients."

Juan Carlos Lopez

Managing Director, Research Grants
Juan Carlos Lopez

Managing Director, Research Grants

Juan Carlos López is Managing Director, Research Grants, at the RTW Charitable Foundation. A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Juan Carlos obtained his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University (New York) in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel and carried out postdoctoral research at the Instituto Cajal (Madrid). In 2000, Juan Carlos moved to London to launch the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, subsequently becoming its Chief Editor. Four years later, he returned to New York as Chief Editor of the prestigious journal Nature Medicine. In 2014, Juan Carlos joined Hoffmann-La Roche as Head of Academic Relations and Collaborations, leading a team in charge of fostering scientific interactions between the company and academic institutions worldwide. After leaving Roche, Juan Carlos founded Haystack Science, a consulting firm specialized in editorial services and science commercialization. In 2020, Juan Carlos returned to the pharmaceutical industry as Director of Academic Research Collaborations at Bristol Myers Squibb. Throughout his career, Juan Carlos has served on the Boards of multiple organizations in the non-profit and biotechnology sectors, most recently on the Board of Directors of Keystone Symposia.

"“For decades, chemistry and biotechnology have been the engines driving the development of new therapies. But now it’s the turn of genetics and genomics to take center stage, and nowhere is this more evident than in the case of rare diseases. It is therefore a great privilege to participate in this revolution in therapeutics as a member of the RTW Charitable Foundation team. We are committed to accelerating the development of new treatments for ultra-rare diseases, improving the lives of patients and their families."

Sarah Garwood

Humanitarian Grants Manager
Sarah Garwood

Humanitarian Grants Manager

Sarah serves as Humanitarian Grants Manager for RTW Charitable Foundation where she is responsible for institutional  partnerships, humanitarian grants, and community initiatives.

Prior to joining RTWCF, Sarah Garwood worked in international development and grants management, most recently at World Connect, a micro-grant giving non-profit focused on community-led health, education, and economic initiatives. Sarah worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), researching nature-based solutions for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. At Jesuit Refugee Service South Africa, she worked with refugee and asylum-seeking women, highlighting their stories and designing a sustainable communication strategy for the organization. She also lived and worked in Belize City, Belize for two years, managing youth development programming at an all-boys high  school with Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

Sarah holds her M.A. in International Political Economy and Development from Fordham University, where she was an Arrupe Fellow, and a B.B.A. in Business Management, International Business, and Theology from Villanova University. More recently, Sarah completed a certificate in Global Mental Health: Trauma & Recovery through the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma.

"I believe in using our skills and resources to support communities that are not always in the spotlight. That’s what we’re doing at RTWCF and I’m excited and humbled to be a part of it."

Lauren Batres

Executive Assistant and Project Manager
Lauren Batres

Executive Assistant and Project Manager

Lauren Batres serves as Executive Assistant and Project Manager for RTW Charitable Foundation where she is responsible for supporting the executive team and overseeing organizational projects. Previously, Lauren worked in the technology sector supporting the CEO at Intelligent Retail Lab by Walmart. Prior to Intelligent Retail Lab, Lauren held positions at Jet.com and Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. Lauren studied Art History and Philosophy at Brooklyn College.

“Contributing to such an impactful organization such as RTW Charitable Foundation is a continuously rewarding experience. There couldn’t be a more driven and passionate team to work alongside in our journey toward a world free of ultra-rare disease for all people.”

Board of Directors

Roderick Wong, MD

Roderick Wong, MD


Rod’s passion for innovative science and its power to impact people’s lives led him to launch RTW in 2009. His  rigorous approach to analyzing the latest science and narrowing in on the ideas with the best potential formed the
foundation of what the firm is today. Over the last 13 years, Rod has built a diverse team of scientists, entrepreneurs, dealmakers, and operators with the capabilities to find those promising scientific innovations and
power their development into life-changing medicine. In addition to his leadership of the firm, Rod manages the
firm’s investments focused on innovative drug development.

Prior to forming RTW, he was a Managing Director and sole Portfolio Manager for the Davidson Kempner Healthcare Funds. Before joining Davidson Kempner, Rod held various healthcare investment and research roles at Sigma Capital Partners and Cowen & Company.

Rod simultaneously received an MD from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and an MBA from Harvard Business School, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BS in Economics from Duke University.

Rod has a keen interest in educating the next generation of life science entrepreneurs. He regularly sits on a variety of corporate boards, including serving as Chairman of Rocket Pharmaceuticals, a company formed and incubated by RTW. In addition, he serves on the board of Penn Medicine, as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Finance at NYU Stern, and as Chairman of the RTW Charitable Foundation.

"We get to support some of the most inspiring doctors and entrepreneurs during the genomic age, when the secrets to disease are being unlocked in real time. It’s hard not to jump out of bed every morning excited to study science."

Stephanie A. Sirota

Stephanie A. Sirota


Stephanie leads a team at RTW overseeing business development, strategic partnerships, communications, and investor relations. Her background in investment banking and expertise in financial markets has helped position the firm as both a partner to life sciences companies and a steward of investors’ capital. Stephanie also manages RTW’s relationships with key partners including banks, academic institutions, corporations, investors, and NGOs. She has led the firm’s entry into the UK and European markets and serves as a director of the RTW Venture Fund Ltd, a publicly traded investment fund listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Prior to joining RTW, she served as director at Valhalla Capital Advisors, a macro and commodity investment manager. Stephanie also worked in the New York and London offices of Lehman Brothers, where she advised on various Merger & Acquisitions, IPOs, and capital market financing transactions with a focus on cross-border transactions for the firm’s global corporate clients.

Stephanie graduated with honors from Columbia University and also received a Master’s Degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

She serves as president of the RTW Charitable Foundation; and co-chair of Council of the New York Philharmonic.

"These are the early days of a scientific renaissance, and at RTW we are investing in the companies that will have a profound impact on humanity. It is humbling and awe-inspiring to witness this transformation and to be that critical connection between entrepreneurs and patients."

Marti Speranza Wong

President, Community Engagement

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