The National Eye Institute’s (NEI) establishment of its Audacious Goals in 2013 was a watershed moment in the drive to cure blinding retinal diseases. The mission of the program—to regenerate the neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system—is synonymous with the Foundation’s mission to eradicate retinal diseases. Most important, it means that the NEI is making significant investments in research that will benefit people with retinal conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, Stargardt disease, and age-related macular degeneration.
At the ARVO annual meeting this year, I was delighted to learn the NEI announced $4 million in funding for five new retinal-imaging grants aimed at helping researchers understand how well new regenerative therapies—for example, transplanted stem cells—are working. The high-tech imaging systems being developed through this investment are essential to moving potential therapies into and through human studies. Keep in mind: These five projects are just the beginning for the Audacious Goals initiative. Several more significant investments are forthcoming.
As secretary for the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, an organization advocating for NEI funding, I consider the Audacious Goals investments, such as those for the imaging grants, to be a major victory. Federally funded research is critical to the advancement of retinal-disease treatments and cures. While we at the Foundation fund a lot of outstanding research, the NEI’s impact on our overall progress is enormous. Together, we do so much more.
I am also very impressed with a new video that NEI presented at ARVO. It’s a three-and-a-half minute clip, which nicely captures, in simple terms: how the visual system works; what goes wrong in retinal diseases and other vision-related conditions; and the Audacious Goals program.
As a non-scientist, I’m always looking for resources that communicate scienctific details in lay terms, and I’m pleased the NEI has the audacity to make science easy to understand! I encourage you to watch it, and share it with anyone, especially non-technical friends who want a better grasp of the science behind vision and the retina.
In the meantime, stay tuned to Eye on the Cure and the Foundation’s website for more news about the NEI’s Audacious Goals program.