New York, NY, December 19, 2008 -- Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), the leading voluntary health organization supporting eye research, awarded 100 grants totaling $10.24 million in 2008. Departments of ophthalmology at 56 medical schools throughout the United States currently receive RPB research grants for investigations into the causes, treatment, and prevention of blinding diseases.
With the addition of 48 new grants to individual researchers, in 2008, a total of 163 RPB-supported scientists were actively pursuing basic and clinical investigations into the entire spectrum of eye disease. During that time, among the nearly one thousand RPB-funded published reports, were: the use of gene therapy to restore sight to patients with retinitis pigmentosa; the discovery of the first genetic link to dry macular degeneration along with the announcement of clinical trials for a potential treatment compound; and identification of the long-sought genes that cause myopia (nearsightedness), along with the possibility of preventing the extreme form of this condition in children, which would spare them further significant vision loss due to myopic retinopathy, retinal detachment, glaucoma or strabismus.
More than 38 million Americans age 40-and-older experience blindness, low vision or an age-related eye disease: 1.75 million have advanced age-related macular degeneration; 4.1 million have diabetic retinopathy; 2.2 million have glaucoma; 5.5 million have cataract; and 4.2 million have corneal dystrophies. That 38 million is expected to increase to 50 million by 2020.
"The magnitude of the global impact of vision loss projected for the coming decades makes it imperative that we maintain momentum and continue to invest in innovation," says David F. Weeks, Chairman. "To that end, we have structured our grants program to attract highly promising scientists into the field of vision research, and to support them at every stage of their careers."
RPB's top award, the Jules and Doris Stein RPB Professorship, provides $500,000 over five years and up to $150,000 in a matching grant for laboratory construction. An additional $200,000 may be awarded during a two-year extension of the award. RPB granted one new Stein Professorship in 2008.
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Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled more than $268 million to medical institutions throughout the United States. As a result, RPB has been identified with nearly every major breakthrough in eye research in that time, including the development of laser surgeries and the anti-VEGF treatments now entering use to curtail retinal degenerative diseases. Historically, 81% of RPB expenditures have gone directly for eye research.
January 11, 2008