HOME OF THE TEJ KOHLI MISSION TO END CORNEAL BLINDNESS BY 2035
Tej Kohli founded the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in 2015 and during the four
years that followed we completed over 43,255 free surgical procedures to
cure and alleviate blindness in some of the world's poorest people.
Led by Tej Kohli and an advisory board comprised of the best minds in science and technology, today we are evolving into a multidisciplinary network for the development of affordable, accessible, scalable solutions.
Tej Kohli has set the objective of eliminating needless corneal blindness by 2035. So we are building a new UK-based research network dedicated to maintaining the cornea in a transparent and healthy state.
Tej Kohli is a believer in the promise of technology to improve human life. As part of not-for-profit Tej Kohli Foundation, we share the Tej Kohli objective to use technology to rebuild people and communities around the world.
BY ENDING CORNEAL BLINDNESS IN POOR COMMUNITIES WE CAN UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF EVERY HUMAN BEING
90% of those living with blindness or severe visual impairment live in the poorest countries in the world. Most do not have access to the resources for prevention or cure. Most treatments for corneal blindness are complex and expensive, so it is very difficult to take adequate treatments into the poor communities where poverty blindness is at its most pervasive.
We must develop technological and scientific solutions that are affordable, scalable and accessible in these poorer communities. That's why we are building an interdisciplinary hub of innovation for the development of scientific and technological solutions that can eliminate blindness in poor communities worldwide. Our mission is a world where nobody is blind because they cannot afford or access treatment.
We are bringing together the very best minds to achieve our mission to eliminate poverty blindness worldwide by 2035. We need scientists, technologists, ophthalmologists, doctors, researchers and influencers. Only through the sharing of ideas and the transfer of technologies can we make the connections which will power the new solutions that we are developing.
THE TEJ KOHLI ANNUAL LETTER 2020
As we enter 2020 our dual approach of making direct interventions today whilst also developing novel new treatments and cures for tomorrow continues to change thousands of lives around the world.
Policymakers are constantly seeking ways to improve the well-being of their citizens and to to reduce poverty. It is well recognised that healthcare is vital for well-functioning economies and cohesive societies. Yet in developing countries where resources are scarce, tough choices constantly have to be made among competing social priorities.
Proving the value of curing avoidable poverty-driven blindness to these policy makers has been one of the reasons that the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute made so many interventions into poor communities in India between 2015 and 2019. The 223,404 outpatients that we welcomed and the 43,255 surgical procedures that we delivered to cure and alleviate blindness has transformed the lives of thousands of poor families in India.
Approximately 12 million people in India are currently blind. Worldwide the figure is 39 million with a further 285 million who are visually impaired. 90% of all people with blindness and visual impairment live in poor communities.
2020 will be a pivotal year as the Tej Kohli Foundation and Tej Kohli Cornea Institute refocus our efforts on developing an affordable, scalable and accessible solution for the masses. We can be proud of our achievements since 2015 and our change of focus does not diminish the importance of making direct interventions to change lives. But we must do what is needed in our mission to eradicate corneal blindness by 2035.
THE STORY OF TEJ KOHLI AND
THE TEJ KOHLI CORNEA INSTITUTE
In 1980 Tej Kohli graduated in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. Thirty-eight years later that same Indian Institute of Technology conferred its Distinguished Alumnus Award upon Tej Kohli for ‘serving society at large’ due to the achievements of the not-for-profit Tej Kohli Foundation and the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute.
The Ethos Of Rebuilding You
The Tej Kohli Foundation takes a dual approach of making direct interventions to improve lives whilst simultaneously backing innovations that can lead to accessible, affordable and scalable new solutions 'for the masses' across a variety of unmet medical needs and poverty-driven treatment gaps, most notably for the elimination of corneal blindness in poor and underserved countries.
The guiding philosophy of the Tej Kohli Foundation is ‘Rebuilding You’ because of Tej Kohli's own personal experience of rebuilding himself. Today ‘Rebuilding You’ manifests Tej Kohli's strong personal desire to use those experiences to now rebuild people and communities around the world. Tej Kohli knows from his own experience that rebuilding yourself can be extremely difficult.
Feeding Children In Costa Rica
In 2006 the opportunity for a high-value trade sale meant that Tej Kohli sold his entire stake in the company that he had founded just a few years earlier. Tej and Wendy had known that a sale of their company was imminent and had already been looking for something new to put all of their energies into. In that same year they launched the ‘Funda Kohli’ project by establishing a series of free canteens in Costa Rica. Today 'Funda Kohli' canteens continue to feed children after school every weekday to ensure that under priviledged children have access to the daily nutrition and sustenance that they need to thrive.
The First Donor Cornea Transplant
In 2010 a serendipitous connection meant that Tej Kohli was invited to fund donor corneal transplants at Niramaya Hospital in India. He was present as the recipient of a corneal transplant that he had funded - a 50-year-old man - had his bandages removed and was able to see his wife and grown up children for the first time. It was a life changing moment for both men. It was at that moment Tej Kohli knew that eliminating corneal blindness would become his calling.
Corneal blindness occurs worldwide, but ninety per cent of those affected by blindness or severe visual impairment live in the poorest countries in the world. 75% of all corneal disease is entirely curable, but the treatment gap in poor communities is substantial. A shortage of donors, the high cost of invasive corneal transplant surgery and the high cost of post-operative medications mean that treatment for corneal blindness is entirely inaccessible within most of the world’s poorest communities.
Inauguration Of The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute
By 2015 Tej Kohli was funding so many corneal transplant operations at Niramaya Hospital that a bigger facility was needed. The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in Hyderabad was inaugurated in late 2015. This first iteration of the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute was highly adept at reaching people in poor and remote rural locations who were ‘shut out’ from life-changing treatment.
Tej Kohli became completely determined to eradicate suffering from the world by ending completely needless corneal blindness from these poor and underserved communities. Yet what became clear very quickly was the sheer magnitude of the task of closing the treatment gap within those poor communities. To eradicate poverty-driven corneal blindness, a brand new solution was needed.
A Regenerative Solution
In 2018 the Tej Kohli Foundation achieved a breakthrough when it successfully created a proprietary regenerative solution which could be applied using a syringe and cause the cornea to ‘regenerate’ and repair itself. This ‘universal solution’ is now years rather than decades away from becoming available, and could be relevant to more than one third of people with corneal visual impairment and blindness.
This caught attention of the global ophthalmic community, and in 2019 Tej Kohli donated $2m to support the development of innovative technologies to improve medical diagnoses and treatments of corneal blindness at Massachusetts Eye And Ear in Boston. The project covers the development of novel innovations and is led by experts from the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology.
Bill Gates and Michael Milken
Tej Kohli has credited two prominent philanthropists as the inspiration behind his not-for-profit activities. Tej Kohli greatly admires Bill Gates for having achieved so much in business and then using his experiences and success to help others around the world. Kohli also admires Michael Milken, whose story resonates because Milken got ‘tripped up’ by his prodigious early successes and then made a comeback and used his experiences to start helping others. In 2004 Fortune Magazine called Milken ‘The Man Who Changed Medicine’.
Tej Kohli is also a strong advocate of the potential of new frontier technologies to improve human life and to solve seemingly intractable human problems. He cites the chain reaction of rapid technological development that is occurring across science and technology to unlock new and novel solutions. Tej Kohli believes that many of these solutions need to be incubated and their potential ‘proven’.
Tej Kohli believes that the Tej Kohli Foundation has a duty to cultivate this hugely rich and fertile landscape of new opportunities to improve human life. With so many philanthropists coming from entrepreneurial backgrounds or having pioneered new technology solutions before; Tej advocates that philanthropic initiatives such as the Tej Kohli cornea Institute are more likely that NGO’s or Governments to unlock the potential of these new and frontier technologies in a way that can have an exponential global impact.
The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute UK Centre of Innovation
In 2020 Tej Kohli officially inaugurated the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute UK Centre of Innovation. The Institute is building a research network to bring scientific expertise together, and is also harnessing the best of British innovation to bridge the corneal blindness treatment gap in poor and underserved communities. Decisions are made by an advisory board of experts from Moorfields Eye Hospital, The Royal College of Surgeons, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Newcastle University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Birmingham.