The Lasker/IRRF Initiative for Innovation in Vision Science

Honolulu, Hawaii
29th April 2018

The Lasker/IRRF Initiative for Innovation in Vision Science: A Partnership Between the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and the International Retinal Research Foundation

The Lasker/IRRF Initiative has been a successful collaboration, inspired by the IRRF Board’s idea that, together, the two Foundations could accelerate the understanding of retinal degenerative diseases using multidisciplinary scientific, technological and engineering approaches. Over the ten-year span IRRF provided support of more than $4 million for four individual projects in glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, restoring vision to the blind and amblyopia, plus a five-year follow-up assessment of the initial glaucoma study. Lasker and IRRF are thrilled with the achievements of the Initiative, thanks to the tremendous contributions of more than 300 scientists in multidisciplinary fields who discussed impediments to progress, debated ways to solve vexing issues and developed novel and creative methodologies that are now driving important research advancements. The IRRF Board of Directors met at the 2018 Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Honolulu, Hawaii and were able to attend special interest sessions supported by the Initiative. The group took this opportunity to discuss the outcome of the project with John Dowling, MD, Gordon and Llura Gund Professor of Neurosciences, Harvard Medical School, who served as Chairman of the Initiative.

Following is an excerpt from remarks by John Dowling, MD, who chaired the Initiative

John Dowling, MD

“…I would like to thank not only the panel members who participated in the special interest groups this year but also everyone who contributed to the Initiative. We estimate that over 300 individuals attended at least one of the 20 meetings held over the 10 years, and many participated in three or more meetings. Those involved were exceptionally enthusiastic and most willing to contribute, making the Initiative an enormous pleasure to chair. Special thanks go to Karen Wright, the Program Administrator for the Initiative, and Sandra Blackwood, the Executive Director of the IRRF, as well as the staffs of the National Academy of Sciences’ J. Erik Jonsson Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where workshops were held for all the studies, and the Janelia Research Center of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute where the plenary sessions were held. Most importantly, the Initiative could never have happened were it not for the vision and generous financial support of the International Retinal Research Foundation and the enthusiasm of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation to undertake this remarkable and productive collaboration. We are all very grateful.” — John Dowling, MD