Research to Prevent Blindness

Research to Prevent Blindness Expands Career Development Award

Today, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) announces exciting changes to its flagship grant, the RPB Career Development Award (CDA), by increasing both the amount of funding and the number of awards funded.

Effective immediately, as a result of a generous gift from RPB Trustee Tom Wertheimer, RPB will increase the amount of CDA funding from $300,000 per grantee to $350,000 per grantee, with the extra $50,000 split between the last two years of the award period. This increase in funding takes into account biomedical inflation, which increases costs for the resources needed to perform research. RPB is also increasing the number of CDA recipients, moving from six awardees per year to eight awardees per year, over the next two years.

The CDA supports early-career researchers in making critical discoveries prior to their first major research grant (the RO1) from the National Institutes of Health. The award allows for extraordinarily talented early-career vision researchers to launch their careers as independent investigators, with the support of a mentorship team. The early-career investigators ask much-needed questions related to a wide variety of sight-threatening conditions and gather the data needed to answer those questions and to inform future research.

“We are proud to bolster our support for early-career researchers even more,” said RPB President Brian F. Hofland, PhD. “Providing support for researchers who are launching careers as independent investigators is critically important to the success of the entire vision research pipeline and RPB remains enthusiastic about meeting that need in the service of our mission.”

CDA Impact

RPB celebrated the CDA’s 30th anniversary in 2019. At that point, RPB had awarded 203 CDAs (now at 219) at a cost of $40 million. Those award recipients went on to garner more than $1 billion in follow-on funding from the federal government, an astounding 25:1 return on investment. This is an indication of the high level of work being performed through the award program and the ability of early-career funding to inform critical research that takes place for many years to come, as well as to launch and sustain research careers. To learn more about the impact of the CDA program, watch a video of CDA recipients.

Celebrating New Awardees

Today, RPB is pleased to name a new class of Career Development Awardees, who are the first Award recipients to receive the expanded funding amount. Congratulations to:

  • Preethi S. Ganapathy, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, State University of New York Upstate Medical University

Dr. Ganapathy will create a unique 3D model to study the role of intraocular pressure-initiated strain in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death, given that RGC death is a hallmark of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

  • Sidney M. Gospe III, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Gospe will test the hypothesis that light-signaling dysfunction arising from abnormal mitochondrial metabolism—believed to be a factor in age-related macular degeneration and other retinal diseases—is caused by reduced delivery of glucose to photoreceptors by the retinal pigment epithelium.

  • Thomas V. Johnson III, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dr. Johnson will study how human retinal ganglion cells generated from stem cells survive and functionally integrate with a recipient retina, as an important step forward in stem cell transplantation for glaucoma treatment.

  • Sophia Wang, MD, Clinical Instructor, Stanford University School of Medicine

Dr. Wang will use artificial intelligence techniques to analyze the electronic health records of glaucoma patients to develop algorithms that will predict the likelihood of glaucoma disease progression and glaucoma surgery success.

“Congratulations to our new Career Development Awardees,” said Dr. Hofland. “I am confident that this latest group of awardees will, in the tradition of other CDA recipients over the past three decades, produce important work that will increase our knowledge base of, and treatments for, vision disorders and these early-career scientists will develop into leaders in vision research.”

For further details on the RPB CDA, visit the grant page here

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