Schepens Eye Research Institute receives 'Roadmap' grant to develop center for curing eye diseases

Boston, Mass The Schepens Eye Research Institute has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to form teams of basic and clinical researchers from many disciplines to find cures for blinding eye diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. The Institute competed with hundreds of organizations for the award. It is the only eye research institute to receive this type of award. The grant is part of a larger initiative known as the "NIH Roadmap," which seeks to find new ways to solve problems that have not yielded to traditional research. NIH is announcing the recipients of these special awards today in Bethesda.

"This is an exciting opportunity to bring enormous energy and new brain power to solve some of the most complex puzzles in eye research," says Darlene Dartt, PhD, the Director of Scientific Affairs at Schepens who is heading up the project. The Institute plans to combine forces with Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School and other Harvard teaching hospitals by enlisting top investigators exploring diseases as diverse as Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease to be part of a "think tank" to cure blindness.

As the population ages, the need for new treatments for vision-robbing diseases is becoming critical. Age-related macular degeneration affects more than 1.75 million individuals in the United States. This number is expected to increase to almost 3 million by 2020.Each year 1.3 million Americans over age 20 are diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. The financial impact and effect on quality of life for people diagnosed with one of these disorders is devastating, says Dartt.

Eye diseases share many of the same underlying mechanisms at work in diseases in other parts of the body, like the heart and the brain. "While experts from these areas often collaborate informally on vision disease, ophthalmology has remained somewhat specialized and in some ways isola

Contact: Patti Jacobs
Schepens Eye Research Institute

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