Aug 28, 2018

The Foundation Fighting Blindness Awards $3.5 Million in 11 New Research and Clinician Career Development Awards for Retinal Diseases

Press Releases

The Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), the world’s leading private funding source for inherited retinal disease research, announced major awards in two areas: promising research projects in retinal diseases and career development for clinical researchers.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), the world’s leading private funding source for inherited retinal disease research, announced major awards in two areas: promising research projects in retinal diseases and career development for clinical researchers.

First, FFB is awarding more than $2 million for seven new research projects designed to advance the development of treatments for retinal degenerative diseases. Each project will receive $300,000 over a 3-year period. The FFB’s Scientific Advisory Board, comprised of the world’s leading retinal experts, selected the recipients from 70 applications received through Foundation Fighting Blindness’ annual call for research proposals from individual investigators.

“Many of the funded research projects are cross-cutting, meaning they have the potential to benefit a broad range of people, independent of the mutated genes causing their retinal diseases,” said Foundation Fighting Blindness Chief Scientific Officer Stephen Rose, PhD. “Also, some projects address a critical gap in our understanding and modeling of disease, and have potential to move the field forward in a significant way.”

Awards will help these seven recipients continue their important work:

  • Daniel Lipinski, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin – Gene Therapy to Preserve Vision by Protecting Cones
  • Leah Byrne, PhD, University of Pittsburgh – Designing Optimal Viral Gene-Delivery Systems for Retinal Diseases
  • John Flannery, PhD, University of California, Berkeley – An Optogenetic Therapy with Improved Light Sensitivity
  • Trevor McGill, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University – Inhibiting Immune Response to Transplanted RPE Cells
  • Paul Bernstein, MD, PhD, University of Utah – VLC-PUFA Therapeutics for Dry AMD and Dominant Stargardt Disease
  • Frans Cremers, PhD, Radboud University Medical Center, Netherlands – Identifying Genetic Modifiers that Affect Severity of Stargardt Disease
  • Martha Neuringer, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University – Large Animal Model Development for Usher Syndrome 1B  

Foundation Fighting Blindness’ second funding announcement is the granting of four career development awards (CDAs) to help up-and-coming clinicians build independent research programs that will advance knowledge and treatment of retinal degenerative diseases. Each recipient will receive $375,000 over 5 years. Foundation Fighting Blindness currently funds 12 CDAs and has presented the awards to more than 100 clinical investigators since the organization’s inception. The 2018 recipients are:

  • Mandeep Singh, MD, PhD, assistant professor in ophthalmology, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine – Dr. Singh is investigating transplantation of cones derived from embryonic stem cells for vision restoration.
  • Shyamanga Borooah, MBBS, PhD, Shiley Eye Center, University of California – Dr. Boorah is testing CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing (gene-correction) in human cells and animal models of autosomal dominant diseases affecting retinal pigment epithelial cells.
  • Rachel Huckfeldt, MD, PhD, Massachusetts Eye & Ear, Harvard – Dr. HuckFeldt is investigating the causes of the potentially harmful collection of fluid associated with cystoid macular edema, as well as better ways to treat it.
  • Nieraj Jain, MD, Emory Eye Center, Emory University – Dr. Jain is investigating a retinal dystrophy associated with chronic use of the interstitial cystitis drug pentosan polysulfate sodium.

“For me, retinal degenerative disease is the most exciting field in all of medicine, because it is a hotbed of innovation in stem cells, gene therapy, and a host of other new treatment concepts,” said CDA awardee Dr. Mandeep Singh. “Foundation Fighting Blindness has been a huge force in driving this innovation.”

About Foundation Fighting Blindness
The Foundation Fighting Blindness was established in 1971 and has raised more than $725 million for research on preventing, treating and curing blindness caused by inherited retinal diseases. In excess of 10 million Americans, and millions more worldwide, experience or are at risk for vision loss due to retinal degenerations. Through its support of focused and innovative science, and by teaming with industry, the Foundation drives the research that has and will continue to provide treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and other inherited retinal diseases.