2019 BrightFocus Research Grants Awards

BrightFocus Foundation has a history of supporting cutting-edge research into Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.


A woman researcher in her lab looking into microscope.


Alzheimer's Disease

Leading scientists from around the world will begin research projects to develop new drugs, gain greater insight into protein changes in the brain, and better understand how the disease develops and progresses.

Brain Changes in Alzheimer's Disease, Role of A Blood Pressure System
Peter Abadir, MD
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

Understanding How Inflammation Kills Brain Cells During Alzheimer’s Disease Progression
Darrick T. Balu, PhD
McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Belmont, MA)

The Effect of the TTR Protein on Alzheimer’s Disease
Ana Batista, PhD
University of Massachusetts School of Medicine (Worcester, MA)

Learning About the Consequences of Alzheimer's Disease on our Brain and Cognitive Functions Early when the Disease Begins
David Berron, PhD
Lund University (Lund, Sweden)

Prenatal Inflammation Programs Alzheimer's Disease Risk Later in Life
Alexandre Bonnin, PhD
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

Mechanisms of Neuronal Dysfunction in Early Alzheimer’s Disease
Marc A. Busche
University College London (London, England, UK)

Dysfunction of Mitochondria in Astrocytes in Alzheimer’s Disease
Maria Calvo-Rodriguez, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Investigating the Potential of Neuropeptides as Better Biomarkers and Novel Therapeutics for Alzheimer's Disease
Becky Carlyle, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

How an Important Gene for Alzheimer’s Called MAPT is Turned On
Nick Cochran, PhD
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology (Huntsville, AL)

Molecular Mechanisms in Alzheimer’s Disease
Luca Colnaghi, PhD
Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri (Milan, Italy)

Treating Memory Loss in Alzheimer's Disease by Strengthening Synapses
Camin Dean, PhD
German Center for Neurodegenerative Disease (Goettingen, Germany)

A New Method to Separate Subgroups of Alzheimer's Disease by Measuring Sappβ in Human Cerebrospinal Fluid
Justyna Dobrowolska Zakaria, PhD
Northwestern University (Chicago, IL)

Microbiome Influences Microglia Phenotypes and Aβ Amyloidosis in A Sex-Specific Manner
Hemraj Dodiya, PhD
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Does Immune System Play A Role as A Potential Therapeutic Target in Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alireza Faridar, MD
Houston Methodist Research Institute (Houston, TX)

Improving Detection of the Earliest Signs of Alzheimer's Disease in the Brain to Help Prevent Memory Loss
Michelle Farrell, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Blood Test to Identify Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Distinguish AD from Other Neurodegenerative Diseases
Garrett Gibbons, PhD
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

Does the Brain Region Responsible for Sleep Trigger Alzheimer's Disease?
S. Abid Hussaini, PhD
Columbia University (New York, NY)

Rescuing Impaired Memory in Alzheimer's Disease Using Reactivation of Brain Network Activity
Kei Igarashi, PhD
University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)

Detecting the Shape Changing Protein Tau in Alzheimer’s Disease
Lukasz Joachimiak, PhD
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas, TX)

Machine-learning Applied on to BIG Neuroimaging Data Can Predict Brain Biological Age and Acceleration of Aging in Early AD Stage
Hosung Kim, MD
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease to Avoid Side Effects of Drugs
WonHee Kim, PhD
Tufts University (Boston, MA)

A New Approach to Understand Why Defects in the Lysosome Pathway Increase the Risk of Developing Alzheimer's Disease
Thomas Kukar, PhD
Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Magnetic Stimulation to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
Giacomo Koch, MD, PhD
IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation (Rome, Italy)

A New Method to Visualize Aβ Generation
Masato Maesako, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Towards New Stimulation Methods to Correct Memory in Alzheimer's Disease
Arjun Masurkar, MD, PhD
New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY)

Reprogramming of Skin Cells from Alzheimer's Patients into Brain Neurons to Understand and Fight Cellular Memory Loss on the Molecular Level
Jerome Mertens, PhD
University of Innsbruck (Innsbruck, Austria)

Assessment of Associations Between a Molecule in the Blood, Behavior and Alzheimer’s Disease Related Changes Inside the Brain
Henrietta Nielsen, PhD
Stockholm University (Stockholm, Sweden)

Understanding the Function of the Biomolecule Polyphosphate During Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease
Bryndon Oleson, PhD
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

Alleviating Alzheimer’s Disease with Novel Therapeutic Agents That Can Precisely Block the Production of Reactive Oxygen
Anna Orr, PhD
Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University (New York, NY)

A Human Brain-In-A-Dish Model to Investigate Central Factors Required for the Formation of Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology
Dominik Paquet, PhD
Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research, University Hospital, LMU Munich (Munich, Germany)

Uncovering the Features of PU.1-protective Microglia in AD
Anna Pimenova, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (New York, NY)

New Protein Modifiers and Therapeutic Targets to Combat Toxic RNA Foci in Frontotemporal Dementia
Bede Portz, PhD
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

Improving the Quality of Spatial Information Processing by Combating Dysfunctional Neuronal Activity in Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Models
Gustavo Rodriguez, PhD
Columbia University (New York, NY)

Determination of whether a Novel Biological System in the Brain Regulates Nerve Cell Death and Behavioral Abnormalities in Alzheimer’s Disease
Min-Kyoo Shin, PhD
Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH)

Determine Whether PIWIL and piRNAs are Dysregulated in Tau Transgenic Mice and Human Neurodegenerative Tauopathies
Wenyan Sun, PhD
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (San Antonio, TX)

A New Intervention to Control Inflammation in Alzheimer’s Disease
Yuxiang Sun, PhD
Texas AgriLife (Texas A&M University) (College Station, TX)

The Alzheimer’s Mystery: Why Proteins Clump Up and Kill Our Memories
Matthias Truttmann, PhD
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

Brain-Invading Monocytes at the Intersection of Alzheimer's Disease and Seizures
Nicholas Varvel
Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

The Relationship between Biological Clock and γ-secretase, the Enzyme Responsible for Generating Senile Plaques in Alzheimer’s Disease
Eitan Wong, PhD
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY)

A New Method to Separate Subgroups of Alzheimer's Disease by Measuring Sappβ in Human Cerebrospinal Fluid
Justyna Dobrowolska Zakaria, PhD
Northwestern University (Chicago, IL)

Understanding the Vascular Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Alzheimer's Disease
Zhen Zhao, PhD
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)


Macular Degeneration

Leading scientists from around the world will begin research projects to prevent inflammation, better understand advanced macular degeneration, and develop new treatments for patients.

The Three-Dimensional Structure of Protein that Causes Macular Degeneration and Correction of Defects
Stephen Aller, PhD
University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, AL)

A New Method to Improve Prediction of the Two Advanced Disease Types of AMD Using Genetic and Environmental Factors
Paul Baird, PhD
Centre for Eye Research Australia, The University of Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia)

A New Way to Target Abnormal Blood Vessel Growth in Wet Macular Degeneration
Tim Corson, PhD
Indiana University School of Medicine (Indianapolis, IN)

The Role of Long Non-Coding RNAs in HTRA1 Regulation
Michael Farkas, PhD
The Research Foundation for SUNY on behalf of University at Buffalo Sponsored Projects Services (Buffalo, NY)

New Automated Method to Predict AMD Progression
Joelle Hallak, PhD
The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Urbana, IL)

A Selective Nanotherapeutics to Treat AMD
Zongchao Han, MD, PhD
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

Investigation of Novel Pathogenesis and Therapeutic Strategy of AMD
Haijiang Lin, MD, PhD
University of Massachusetts Medical School (Worcester, MA)

Inhibiting Inflammation to Prevent Wet AMD
Alexander Marneros, MD, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Defective Energy Utilization in Age-related Macular Degeneration
Raju Rajala, PhD
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (Oklahoma City, OK)

Understanding the First Step in Human Vision
Raunak Sinha, PhD
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (Madison, WI)

A Novel Negative Immune Regulator to Control Wet AMD by Altering Immune-Vascular Crosstalk in the Eye
Ye Sun, MD, PhD
Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

A Novel Nanomedicine for The Treatment of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Imam Uddin, MD
Vanderbilt Eye Institute (Nashville, TN)

A New Approach to Modeling Subretinal Tissue to Understand and Treat Age-related Macular Degeneration
Elizabeth Vargis, PhD
Utah State University (Logan, UT)

New Visual Function Tests to Enable Treatment Trials of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Zhichao Wu, PhD
Centre for Eye Research Australia (Melbourne, Australia)

Does Cytomegalovirus Infection of the Human Eye Contribute to the Development of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
Ming Zhang, MD, PhD
Augusta University Research Institute, Inc. (Augusta, GA)



Leading scientists from around the world will begin research projects to prevent nerve cell death, improve drainage within the eye, and develop a greater understanding of the connection between brain health and glaucoma.

Complement-Targeted Therapy to Restrict Glaucoma Progression
Alejandra Bosco, PhD
University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)

The Role of Waste Removal in the Visual Pathway in Glaucoma
Kevin Chan, PhD
New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY)

Making Optic Nerve Regeneration Faster
Eldon Geisert, PhD
Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

The Role of Thrombospondin-1 in Regulating the Pressure Inside the Eye
Haiyan Gong, MD, PhD
Boston University School of Medicine (Boston, MA)

A New Method to Diagnose Glaucoma in the Peripheral Retina, An Area That Is Not Effectively Evaluated with Traditional Tests
John Hetling, PhD
University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Targeting the Immune System to Prevent Glaucoma
Meredith Gregory-Ksander, PhD
The Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Boston, MA)

The Genetics of Glaucoma in Individuals of Caucasian and African Ancestry1
Michael Hauser, PhD
Duke University (Durham, NC)

Growing Human Retinas from Stem Cells to Study the Dying Neurons in Glaucoma
Robert Johnston, PhD
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

A Blinding Disease Affecting Children and Young Adults
Saidas Nair, PhD
University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

New Compounds for Glaucoma Therapy
Chan Young Park, PhD
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (Boston, MA)

Protecting Connections Between the Eye and the Brain in Glaucoma
Gareth Thomas, PhD
Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)

Stimulating the Natural Genetic Programs for Survival and Repair of Neurons in Glaucoma
Trent Watkins, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX)

Targeting Inflammatory Cells to Treat Glaucoma
Sarah Zhang, MD
State University of New York at Buffalo (Buffalo, NY)


1 Pending contract negotiations and/or approved content.