2017 RPB/IRRF Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

2019 marked the fifth year of collaboration between the International Retinal Research Foundation (IRRF) and Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) in which our collective resources were used to support focused research into the causes and possible cures for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) joined RPB and IRRF in establishing four more catalyst awards in 2019. These Catalyst Awards for Innovative Research Approaches for AMD will provide up to $300,000 per award, payable over 3 years.


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/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 lerning about the mechanisms that initiate RPE damage and, subsequently, AMD.

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 from promoting a new understanding of AMD and to developing new treatments, including research related to both dry and wet forms of AMD.  Assistant professor through full professor 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/institutions, 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.  In 2017, RPB and IRRF again joined together to launch the current version of the Catalyst Awards.  This collaboration has been a very positive experience and the combining of our respective resources has allowed us to extend a significant award, and we feel confident that worthy recipients have again been selected.  The IRRF welcomes the added participation of the American Macular Degeneration Foundation as this will further extend the impact of these awards.

About the International Retinal Research Foundation:  The International Retinal Research Foundation (IRRF) 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 www.irrf.org.

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.  RPB also supports efforts to grow and sustain a robust and diverse vision research community.  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 www.rpbusa.org.

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 www.macular.org.

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