Julia Vitarello is founder and CEO of Mila’s Miracle Foundation. Her life has taken her from Washington, D.C., where she grew up, to Amherst College, where she pursued a liberal arts degree, and then to Italy, where she lived and worked for many years. She finally settled in Boulder, Colorado, where she headed a small company and started a family. Travel, language, outdoor sports, and playing with her kids were her passions. But Julia’s life took a drastic turn in December 2016 when her then six-year-old daughter Mila was diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic condition—Batten Disease.
Upon learning that Mila’s disease had no cure and no child had ever survived it, Julia started Mila’s Miracle Foundation (MMF) to initiate and fund novel treatments. She raised nearly $3M in grass-roots efforts, while at the same time being a mom and caregiver. She raced against time with scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital to start a first-ever patient-customized antisense oligonucleotide treatment, which Mila began in January 2018. Through MMF, Julia has also initiated a gene therapy targeting the MFSD8 gene, Mila’s variant of Batten. Her foundation hosts scientific meetings and funds basic science projects in the US and Europe.
What began as a race to save Mila’s life, has turned into an opportunity to pave an entirely new treatment path for children with fatal genetic diseases. Julia has created a strong global following of Mila’s story and regularly engages scientists, academic and government institutions, biotechs, and patient advocates to help in this mission. She presents Mila’s story at scientific meetings and conferences across the country. Driven by hope from Mila’s treatment, as well as a sense of obligation to help other families like her own, Julia is dedicated to turning Mila’s story into a brighter future for millions of children around the world.