Research to Prevent Blindness

RPB and Partners Award $1.2 Million In Grants for Novel AMD Research

Research to Prevent Blindness, with its partners, the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) and the International Retinal Research Foundation (IRRF), has awarded four grants aimed at stimulating and supporting new lines of research targeting age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The Catalyst Awards for Innovative Research Approaches for AMD will provide up to $300,000 per award, payable over 3 years.

The grants, part of RPB’s Spring 2019 grants portfolio, are as follows:

RPB/AMDF Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for AMD

  • Sabine Fuhrmann, PhD, Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, will examine the potential of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells to regenerate in mature mammalian eyes via specific signaling pathways.
  • Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD, Associate Professor, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, will study RPE cell damage (a known precursor to AMD), with the goal of learning about the mechanisms that initiate RPE damage and, subsequently, AMD.

RPB/IRRF Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for AMD

  • Monica M. Jablonski, PhD, FARVO, Professor, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, will develop polygenetic models of AMD in order to better study disease pathogenesis and test innovative therapies.  

RPB Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for AMD

  • Kevin L. Schey, PhD, Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, will develop a novel method of identifying early-stage AMD by correlating molecular and clinical information via a machine learning approach.

“RPB is grateful to have two excellent partners working with us to award this new round of Catalyst Awards,” said Brian F. Hofland, President of RPB. “All of our organizations recognize that in order to ‘move the needle’ on AMD research, researchers need the freedom to pursue brand new, sometimes risky, lines of inquiry. However, the rigorous scientific review process that all Catalyst Award applications undergo ensures that these research proposals are indeed a risk worth taking.”

The Catalyst Awards are aimed at researchers who are working on novel approaches to AMD research that has translational relevance or potential. A wide range of applications were considered to improve new understanding of AMD and/or to develop new treatments, including research related to both dry and wet forms of AMD. Assistant professors through full professors from any U.S. academic medical center and any relevant department were eligible to apply. However, the proposed research could not be funded—previously or at the time of application—by others, including government agencies/institutes, non-profits and private funders.

RPB and IRRF launched the first version of the Catalyst Awards in 2014, which focused on supporting novel stem cell-based approaches to AMD research. In 2017, RPB and IRRF again partnered to launch the current version of the Catalyst Awards.

“Collaboration with Research to Prevent Blindness has been a very positive experience and the joining of our respective resources has allowed us to extend a significant award. We feel confident in the recipient that has been selected and we look forward to future advances in AMD research as a result of this grant,” said Sandra Blackwood, MPA, Executive Director of IRRF.

This year, AMDF joined RPB in offering two Catalyst Awards, which dovetails with AMDF’s mission to work toward the prevention, treatment and cure of macular degeneration. “AMDF is continuing to grow its vision research commitments,” said Chip Goehring, President of AMDF. “By supporting these accomplished researchers in pursuing potentially game-changing treatments for macular degeneration, we hope to accelerate the arrival of new, sight-saving breakthroughs. And, by combining our resources with the grant-making experience and expertise of Research to Prevent Blindness, we are sharply increasing our ability to advance the science.”

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About Research to Prevent Blindness

Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is the leading nonprofit organization supporting eye research directed at the prevention, treatment, or eradication of all diseases that damage and destroy sight. As part of this purview, RPB also supports efforts to grow and sustain a robust and diverse vision research community. Since it was founded in 1960 by Dr. Jules Stein, RPB has awarded more than $368 million in research grants to the most talented vision scientists at the nation’s leading medical schools. As a result, RPB has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss in the past 59 years. Learn more at

About the American Macular Degeneration Foundation

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation is a patient-centered foundation that supports potentially game-changing AMD research, education and advocacy in order to improve quality of life and treatment outcomes for all those affected by AMD. Learn more at

About the International Retinal Research Foundation

The International Retinal Research Foundation provides financial support for vision research to scientists in every corner of the globe, while focusing on discovery of causes, preventions and cures of macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. In addition to research funding, IRRF supports training fellowships, public awareness programs, and promotes the exchange of scientific findings. To do this, IRRF must maximize every dollar. Forming partnerships and collaborations with outstanding institutions has made it possible to effectively achieve a collective impact, which will positively affect the lives of many individuals and further scientific knowledge in the vision research community. Learn more at


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