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BrightFocus Foundation Awards Grants to Seven Leading Researchers in Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration

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The seven recognized today are among a group of 29 scientists who will be receiving $5.1 million in vision research grants from BrightFocus, a record level of financial support.

DENVER, CO- May 4, 2015—The BrightFocus Foundation today honored seven outstanding scientists in the fields of macular degeneration and glaucoma, awarding them research grants named in honor of leaders in vision research and advocacy.

The seven recognized today are among a group of 29 scientists who will be receiving $5.1 million in vision research grants from BrightFocus, a record level of financial support. The awards were presented today at a Denver event coinciding with the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

“We are proud to honor and support these researchers as they strive for new treatments and cures for vision diseases. I have full confidence that they will carry on the legacies of those for whom the grants are named,” said BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Haller.

The scientists honored today come from seven states: Alabama, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, and Wisconsin. The BrightFocus awards are as follows:

Macular Degeneration Research:

  • Noriko Esumi, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins received the Helen Juanita Reed Award to study molecules that can reduce inflammation or increase resistance to harmful stresses in the retina.
  • Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin received the Charlotte & Alexander Danilevsky Memorial Award for Macular Degeneration Research to understand how certain aggregates form, how they impact cell function, and whether a treatment strategy can help prevent the formation of aggregates and preserve healthy vision.
  • Alfred Lewin, MD, of the University of Florida received the Elizabeth Anderson Award to use a mouse model of dry age-related macular degeneration to test if reversal of oxidative stress using gene therapy can be beneficial once signs of the disease are detected.
  • Goldis Malek, PhD, of Duke University received the Carolyn K. McGillvray Memorial Award to look at the role of a specific factor called osteopontin, which may be responsible for recruiting immune cells to the eye in the development and progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Glaucoma Research:

  • Julia Richards, PhD, of the University of Michigan received the Dr. Douglas H. Johnson Award for Glaucoma Research to study a new angle closure glaucoma gene, and investigate the role of homocysteine metabolism in glaucoma, which could lead to development of future therapies.
  • Rafael Grytz, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham received the Thomas R. Lee Award for Glaucoma Research to develop a novel imaging and quantification methodology to gain insight into the growth and remodeling mechanisms that underlie glaucoma.
  • Yonju Ha, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch received the Marguerite Wilke Memorial Award for Glaucoma Research to test whether two proteins called CXC10 and CXCR3 are involved in retinal inflammation and neuronal cell death during glaucoma.

The names and projects of this year’s other individual grant recipients will be announced at a later date, pending completion of final agreements with researchers and supporting institutions.

BrightFocus Foundation is a nonprofit organization supporting research and public education to help eradicate brain and eye diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma. For more information, call 1-800-437-2423.


Glossary Terms

  • One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of amyloid plaques between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Amyloid is a general term for protein fragments that the body produces normally. Beta amyloid is a protein fragment snipped from an amyloid precursor protein (APP). In a healthy brain, these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated. In Alzheimer's disease, the fragments accumulate to form hard, insoluble plaques.