Donor Profile: Cassiopeia Foundation and Ethan Miller


Key Points

  • Ethan Miller has been a principal in his family-run Cassiopeia Foundation for more than 20 years.
  • The Cassiopeia Foundation has supported focused ultrasound research for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
The Cassiopeia constellation

Ethan Miller has been a principal in his family-run Cassiopeia Foundation for more than 20 years. He grew up in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. After graduating from Haverford College with a BA in Economics in 1976, Ethan earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1979, and then practiced business law for over 25 years in St. Louis, Baltimore, and Charlottesville, VA. Today, he owns and operates an upstream oil and gas company based in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.

What was the reason for your support of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation?
Cassiopeia’s first grant to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation was to support its work in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Our giving honors Cassiopeia’s founder, Patricia Jones Edgerton, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s for over a decade before her death. We were, and continue to be, excited about the potential for focused ultrasound to transform the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases including ALS, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, dystonia, and essential tremor.

We first heard Dr. Neal Kassell speak about the potential benefits of focused ultrasound treatment at a gathering of potential funders in 2006 or so. Neal and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation team have been in the forefront of developing and popularizing ultrasound treatment in the United States and elsewhere in the world. 

How does the Focused Ultrasound Foundation fit within your approach to philanthropy?
Our approach to philanthropy is to find and support the best people. I first met Neal Kassell when he came to the University of Virginia Department of Neurosurgery in 1984, nearly 40 years ago, and have followed his career. Neal is not only brilliant but a visionary as well. Our approach is to identify people like Neal, provide them with necessary resources, and then stand back and watch.

A lot of traditional philanthropy is risk averse. We recognize that risk-taking is required to achieve breakthroughs in medicine (and elsewhere). We are not afraid of risk and believe that the potential benefits of focused ultrasound treatments are worth taking risks for.

The Cassiopeia Foundation has made hundreds of grants totaling many hundreds of millions of dollars in its 20 plus year history. I am personally proudest of the two grants we have made to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.

We are honored to support Neal Kassell and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation in their mission.