Meet Renaissance Innovators Ted and Melza Barr

The Catalyst for a Cure Initiative to Prevent and Cure Neurodegeneration is the inspiration of longtime GRF supporters Ted and Melza Barr.

“We had been thinking about the challenge of neurodegeneration ever since the first Catalyst for a Cure identified it as a factor in glaucoma,” says Ted. “We thought it was time to better understand neurodegeneration in a fundamental way and develop solutions based on that knowledge.”

Following their curiosity, in 2021, the Barrs came to GRF with a bold proposition:  Why not invest in research that could catalyze a quantum leap in our understanding of all neurodegenerative diseases, moving us closer to solutions for glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, and related conditions? With the Barrs’ generous support, GRF convened a virtual meeting-of-the-minds among top researchers to identify promising avenues for exploration. Encouraged by the results, the Barrs decided to invest further. “We have great confidence in the Catalyst for a Cure approach,” Ted says.

True renaissance innovators, the Barrs are a family of visionaries and philanthropists. Ted’s successful career in petroleum exploration and production motivated the family to support the communities that had contributed to their business success. In West Africa, the Barrs have funded infectious disease and public health programs, and education efforts. In the United States, they have advanced medical science, geological and environmental sciences, and the arts through the Melza M. and Frank Theodore Barr Foundation, founded in 2003.

The Barrs first became involved with glaucoma research after Ted experienced vision challenges while working in Indonesia in the early 1970s. With eye pressures that were especially high, Ted was referred to Dr. Robert Shaffer in San Francisco, where he connected with Dr. Shaffer and his partners Dr. Dunbar Hoskins and Dr. Jack Hetherington who would go on to found Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Further demonstrating their passion for quantum leaps, the Barrs have made a major gift to address some of biggest questions in planetary science. With their son, Terence, a CalTech alumnus, they have funded the Terence D. Barr Leadership Chair at the Caltech Center for Comparative Planetary Evolution. In a multidisciplinary model similar to GRF’s Catalyst for a Cure, the center unites scholars from astronomy, geology, and biology in exploring how planets form and evolve — yet another way the Barrs are generously investing in breakthroughs with universal impact.


Posted on August 24, 2022