Grants Program

RPB's emphasis is on high-potential investigators.  There is an RPB grant category available to a scientist at any stage in his or her career--from a medical student considering academic eye research to a seasoned investigator extending the frontiers of vision science.

Grants are awarded not only on the merits of the proposed project, but on the demonstrated independence of a researcher and the vibrancy of the environment within which the proposed work will be conducted.

Applications for RPB grants must be submitted by the chairman of a department of ophthalmology and are then evaluated via a three-tiered review process. RPB Ad Hoc Committees, which are comprised of selected national vision research leaders, conduct initial grant reviews and forward their recommendations to the standing RPB Scientific Advisory Panel for further evaluation. The Advisory Panel includes some of the nation's most distinguished scientists representing a broad range of scientific disciplines and interests. Their recommendations are presented to the RPB Board of Trustees for final approval.

At many research institutions, RPB's support creates a multiplier effect.  Unrestricted grants are used to acquire larger government grants.   At the same time, the flexibility of RPB support allows government-supported investigators to pursue additional research.  The successes generated by these scenarios can attract donors to support university research and capital projects, further expanding capacity across the vision research community.

Some RPB-supported studies affect societal issues, such as the adequacy of eye care in nursing homes, or factors that influence an individual's decision to stop driving.  Still other advances have implications for the treatment of illnesses beyond those of vision.

Overview of Guidelines

Please note: Grant applications are not available on RPB's website.  For complete grant guidelines and applications, or if you have any questions regarding RPB's Grants Program, contact RPB's Grant Administrator at 212.752.4333 or

RPB accepts grant applications twice a year, January 10th and July 1st, for the grant categories listed below. Guidelines and application forms must be requested by the chair of the department of ophthalmology or the department's grant coordinator. Departments of ophthalmology must have an RPB Unrestricted / Challenge Grant in order to apply for individual grants, and only permanent, full-time department chairs are eligible to apply for an Unrestricted / Challenge Grant.

New chairs should speak with RPB's President prior to the submission of an application. If a proposal for an Unrestricted or Challenge Grant is rejected, the chair must wait two years before reapplying, so RPB strongly encourages thorough preparation and planning before an application is submitted.

Grant Categories

If you are interested in any of these grant opportunities, first consult with your Department Chairman, Grant Coordinator and/or Director of Research. Click on a grant category for a fuller description.


RPB UNRESTRICTED GRANTS provide maximum flexibility in developing and expanding eye research programs. These annual $115K grants provide opportunities for creative planning that go beyond the scope of restricted project grants that scientists normally depend upon for their principal support. Only departments of ophthalmology with a full-time, permanent chair at university-connected medical schools are eligible for support.

RPB CHALLENGE GRANTS encourage growth for newly-emerging eye research programs and recently appointed research directors at non-grantee ophthalmology departments at university-connected medical schools. These unrestricted $300K grants are awarded over a 4-year period.


RPB PHYSICIAN-SCIENTIST AWARDS help to strengthen and promote clinical and/or basic research done by clinicians in RPB Grantee ophthalmology departments. Two $300,000 grants, payable over three years, will be awarded each spring, offering support for early or mid-career MDs or MD/PhDs holding primary positions as Assistant Professors through Associate Professors in ophthalmology departments.  PhDs are ineligible. Candidates should be nationally recognized in their subspecialty and actively engaged in research. Only one application in this category will be accepted from any RPB Grantee chair.


RPB RESEARCH SABBATICAL GRANTS offer up to $50K to match funds provided by RPB Grantee departments to support a leave of either six months or a year, providing that such support does not exceed 50% of the base salary ordinarily paid to the candidate. The award is intended to support mid-career candidates rather than senior scientists nearing retirement or those who might simply want to take time off to publish. Nominees should become involved in educational and scientific programs that would either enhance their professional expertise or allow them to pursue a new ophthalmic research career path.


RPB WALT AND LILLY DISNEY AWARD FOR AMBYLOPIA RESEARCH was initiated to strengthen and promote research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of amblyopia. Grants will be offered to assist exceptional ophthalmic scientists [MD or PhD], doing research of unusual significance and promise in this area. RPB grants a total of $100K each spring, to be divided among one or two awardees at a time. This award is available through spring 2015. The nominee's primary appointment must be in ophthalmology, and may range from Assistant Professor to full Professor. Although this Award is meant to support amblyopia investigators at various stages of their academic careers, be advised that proposals should reflect independent research. Only one nomination per school will be considered in this grant category.


RPB SPECIAL SCHOLAR AWARDS, ranging in amount from $25K to $75K, are granted each spring to encourage promising young ophthalmic researchers. Nominees must be Assistant Professors, with primary appointments in the department of ophthalmology. Proposals should reflect independent research.  Only one Scholars Award candidate per school may be nominated per spring review cycle.


RPB CAREER DEVELOPMENT AWARDS help recruit young MDs &/or PhDs to eye research and support promising junior ophthalmology faculty. The $300,000 grant is payable in equal annual installments over four years. Candidates may be sought from either ophthalmology or basic science departments within one's own institution or from other institutions. Nominees must have, or be recruited to, primary appointments in ophthalmology with academic positions up to and including Assistant Professor. Nominations must be made during the last year of the candidate's most recent postdoc training (residency or fellowship), or within the ensuing three years. MDs and MD/PhDs will be required to devote 50% of their time to research activities, with 60% desirable. PhDs must have secondary appointments in basic science departments.


The RPB Stein Innovation Awards provide funds to two groups of researchers, both with a common goal of understanding the visual system and the diseases that compromise its function.  These SI Awards, $300,000 payable in two payments, are intended to provide venture capital and seed money to proposed high-risk/high-gain vision science research which is innovative, cutting-edge, and demonstrates out-of-the-box thinking.  The proposed research cannot be funded – previously or currently – by others (NEI, NIH, nonprofits, private funders, etc.).  Researchers with their primary appointment in Ophthalmology can apply for the January deadline; researchers with their primary appointment outside of Ophthalmology can apply for the July deadline.


RPB MEDICAL STUDENT FELLOWSHIPS allow gifted students to take a year off from medical school and devote time to the pursuit of a research project within an RPB grantee department. The fellowship, which must take place prior to the third or fourth year of medical school, will be funded for one year with a $30K grant, a portion of which should be utilized to help finance the recipient's eye research activities. It is neither intended that the program become a vehicle to assure the candidate a residency, nor that it be used simply to provide technical assistance. Both the candidate and the training program proposed are evaluated in the review process. Since outcomes are not announced until almost six months after submission, the applicant should be aware of the risk of rejection.


RPB HAROLD F. SPALTER INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH SCHOLARS AWARDS enable established, foreign scientists to engage in collaborative research efforts for periods varying from a few weeks to several months in an RPB Grantee department in the USA. It is intended to cover the transportation costs of the recipient, with the host institution covering all other expenses. This is not a fellowship program. If the visit is to begin within six months of the proposal's submission, the applicant should be aware of the risk of rejection, as funding announcements may not be made until after the visit has commenced.