The Foundation Fighting Blindness, the world’s leading organization committed to finding treatments and cures for blinding retinal diseases, has announced $6.5 million in funding for 15 new grants, bringing its research portfolio to a total of 84 grants. The projects were selected from 134 proposal submissions made by investigators in fall 2019. The submissions were rigorously evaluated and scored by the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, which is comprised of the world’s top retinal disease experts.
“First and foremost, we are committed to projects that will lead to vision-saving treatments and cures,” says Benjamin Yerxa, PhD, chief executive officer at the Foundation. “Our funding strategy also focuses on critical research gaps, that when addressed, will move the whole field forward in a significant way. For example, the grants for new models for RP, Usher syndrome type 1B, and Stargardt disease will have a major impact on therapy development. Proof-of-concept for a therapy in a model that closely replicates human disease can be the springboard for clinical trials.”
Tom Reh, PhD, a retinal regeneration expert at the University of Washington, is receiving a new Foundation grant to continue his innovative research in a treatment that empowers the retina for self-regeneration. While most regenerative retinal therapies involve transplantation of new retinal cells derived from stem cells, Dr. Reh’s approach would enable a diseased retina to grow its own new photoreceptors, the cells that make vision possible.
“The immediate goal is to find out whether we can stimulate regeneration of new neurons in human retina from the Muller glia using the same factors that work in mice,” says Dr. Reh. “If we are successful, I imagine a day when an ophthalmologist will give injections of a gene or two into a late stage patient over a period of a few weeks and this will set in motion a process of remaking the cone photoreceptor cells in the fovea and restoring some vision to that person.”
Dr. Reh received the Foundation’s Board of Director’s Award in 2010 for his breakthroughs in retinal regeneration.
Read the full press release here.