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Archive for the News Commentary Category

A Leap Forward: Spark Therapeutics Seeks FDA Approval for its Vision-Restoring Gene Therapy

Gene therapy recipient Yannick DuweWe’re approaching a critical milestone in the fight against blinding retinal diseases, and it has the potential to tremendously boost and accelerate the advancement of virtually all gene therapies in development for dozens of inherited retinal diseases.

Sometime in 2016, Spark Therapeutics will request marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its landmark gene therapy for retinal conditions caused by mutations in the gene RPE65, namely certain forms of Leber congenital amaurosis and retinitis pigmentosa.
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The Challenge Continues: FFB Chairman Gordon Gund is Interviewed on CNBC

Gordon Gund on CNBC in NantucketGordon Gund, who’s held in extremely high esteem by people inside and outside the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), has been completely blind for decades. He lost his eyesight to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa in his thirties. Not that it slowed him down much. Among other accomplishments, he’s been a financier, venture capitalist, sports-team owner and sculptor. And, of course, he’s a co-founder of FFB and its chairman of the board.
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For Rare Disease Day, Help Us Fight Retinal Diseases

logo - Rare Disease DaySince its inception in 1971, the Foundation Fighting Blindness has focused its efforts on helping people with rare diseases. In the United States, a rare disease is defined as that which affects fewer than 200,000 people. And, in fact, most vision-robbing retinal diseases—retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease and Usher syndrome included—fall into that category.
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The Philanthropy 50: The Gunds Make the List of Top Donors in 2014

Gordon and Llura GundIt’s quite a list. On it, among others, are the Gateses, a Rockefeller, Google’s co-founders, a former New York City mayor and the founding president of Facebook. A list of America’s richest people, you ask? Well, not exactly. Compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “The Philanthropy 50” is a ranking of the country’s top donors in 2014, who gave almost $10 billion, collectively, to a plethora of non-profits. Coming in at #37 is a couple near and dear to FFB’s heart—Gordon and Llura Gund.
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Total Blindness and Non-24 Sleep Disorder

The circadian clockRecently, you may have been hearing and seeing commercials for a blindness-related sleep disorder called Non-24. In the radio ads I’ve heard, the narrator says he’s totally blind and suffers from the condition. The media spots are sponsored by Vanda Pharmaceuticals, which recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a drug called Hetlioz to treat Non-24.
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Stem Cell Researcher Requests Retraction of Papers on Purported Breakthrough

Haruko ObokataSometimes research, especially early research, isn’t all it’s initially cracked up to be.

Such is the case with a purported advancement I blogged about last month in which researchers reported that soaking cells in a mildly acidic solution might be a safer and easier way to make stem cells. Investigators from the Riken Institute had just published two papers in the prestigious journal Nature detailing the promising approach.
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How Growing Up a Blind Man’s Son Inspired the New Sitcom ‘Growing Up Fisher’

J.K. Simmons plays Mel Fisher, a blind lawyer and father, in the new NBC sitcom "Growing Up Fisher."If you’ve been watching the Olympics (and who hasn’t?), you’ve probably seen the promo ads for a new show called Growing Up Fisher, which will debut on NBC this Sunday, at 10:30 p.m., after the network airs the games’ closing ceremonies. And if you’ve seen the ads, you’ve probably noticed that the family patriarch, Mel Fisher, is—well—blind. And, yes, it’s a sitcom.
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An FFB Board Member’s Perspective on Her Experience with Acupuncture

Moira Shea, an FFB board member who says she has benefited from acupuncture therapy, at home with her guide dog, Finnegan.A few weeks ago, the Foundation’s chief research officer, Dr. Steve Rose, authored a post about acupuncture that generated significant interest from readers at Eye on the Cure and on FFB’s Facebook page. The impetus for his post was a feasibility study at Johns Hopkins University, in which Dr. Ava Bittner, O.D., Ph.D., found that eight of 12 people treated with acupuncture had, as Dr. Bittner reported, “significant vision improvements in night vision, dark adaptation and/or visual field.”
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A $2 Million Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Video Included:
Art Garfunkle
When most people think of Art Garfunkel, they not only think of him as half the folk-pop duo Simon & Garfunkel; they think of him as the singer of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which includes the lyrics “I’ll take your part/ when darkness comes/ and pain is all around.” Appropriately enough, you can now also think of Garfunkel as a major player in the fight against blindness.
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Nobel Prize Winners Have Big Impact on Emerging Retinal Treatments

Video Included:
Shinya Yamanaka, co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine.For science geeks like me, the announcement of Nobel Prize for Medicine winners is always exciting news. But this year’s two recipients are especially near and dear to my heart, because their groundbreaking work is having an enormous impact on sight-saving retinal research.

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