Glaucoma Research Foundation has launched the third phase of its collaborative research program, Catalyst for a Cure. Called “The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative,” the new phase was kicked off at the organization’s 2019 Annual Dinner on April 23 in San Francisco.
The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative builds on 16 years of seminal scientific research on the cause, early biological indicators, and measurement of glaucoma, and will focus on restoring vision in glaucoma patients. It was introduced at the annual dinner by David J. Calkins, PhD, chair, Glaucoma Research Foundation Research Committee and Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Scientific Advisory Board, and O’Day Professor and Director for Research, Vanderbilt Eye Institute.
“Restoring sight lost to glaucoma is what we’ve all dreamed of,” Dr. Calkins said in a news release. “Now, we believe it is a real possibility because we have the advances of our Catalyst for a Cure predecessors to build on. We know where to focus our efforts to not only stop the progression of glaucoma, but also to restore vision already lost.”
Dr. Calkins explained that glaucoma is often erroneously viewed as a disease that results from elevated eye pressure. However, it is really a disease that is caused by the degeneration of the optic nerve. To date, the only treatment for glaucoma has been to lower pressure—either through drops, surgery or both. The goal for The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative is to preserve and repair the optic nerve, and to rebuild the nerve where damage has already resulted in vision loss.
“When the Catalyst for a Cure research began in 2002, it marked the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way we look at glaucoma,” Dr. Calkins said. “Our focus now is on the optic nerve, and how we can treat it—by restoring, replacing or outright regenerating damaged retinal ganglion cells and their axons in the optic nerve – rather than on how to manage pressure in the front of the eye.”
Different from typical research models where scientists work individually and often compete for grant money, Catalyst for a Cure scientists are engaged in a research collaboration that builds on their collective strengths. By design, their multi-disciplinary skills and efforts will enable them to move more quickly toward their goal.
The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative team is made up of four scientists from prestigious academic centers who were chosen for their particular expertise in retinal ganglion cell restoration, replacement or repair; neuroprotection; and clinical ophthalmology:
- Xin Duan, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Physiology, Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco
- Yang Hu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Stanford University School of Medicine
- Anna La Torre, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis
- Derek Welsbie, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, San Diego Shiley Eye Institute, University of California, San Diego
The team will apply the latest developments in neuroscience, molecular biology and genetics to solve the loss of retinal nerve cells and translate their findings into clinical applications to stop glaucoma progression and restore lost vision. They will leverage innovative genetic research and engineering, including use of CRISPR tools.
“Now, more than ever, doctors and researchers believe that a cure for glaucoma is possible and in sight,” said Thomas M. Brunner, president and CEO, Glaucoma Research Foundation. “Our talented Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative research team brings together talented scientists working on the most cutting-edge research that we hope will create a future free from glaucoma.”