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BrightFocus Foundation Honors Five Researchers on Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma

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SEATTLE, WABrightFocus Foundation today recognized five scientists in the fields of macular degeneration and glaucoma research, awarding them grants named in honor of leaders in vision research and advocacy.

The five recognized today are among a group of 32 scientists who will collectively receive nearly $5 million in vision research grants this year from BrightFocus, a record level of financial support. The awards were presented at a Seattle breakfast event coinciding with the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

“We are proud to honor and support these brilliant scientists as they strive to better understand and ultimately end macular degeneration and glaucoma.  Their innovative work honors the legacies of the advocates and scientists in whose name these awards are given,” said BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Haller.

The five scientists honored today with named awards, all women, come from research institutions in four states in the US—California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Ohio—and from Australia. The awards are as follows:

Macular Degeneration Research

  • Vera Bonilha, PhD, of The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, received The Elizabeth Anderson Award for Macular Degeneration Research, to better understand late-stage dry, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by comparing images of eyes donated by persons with AMD, with a detailed analysis of the changes in inflammation and cell structure along the leading edge of retinal lesions.
  • Maria Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, received The Helen Juanita Reed Award for Macular Degeneration Research, to develop a novel 3D human mini-retina model (“retina in a dish”) for the early stages of macular degeneration, to help investigate the initial triggers leading to this disease.
  • Robyn Guymer, MBBS, PhD, of the Centre for Eye Research Australia, The University of Melbourne, received The Carolyn K. McGillvray Award for Macular Degeneration Research, to study the underlying mechanisms by which debris accumulates in the retina in AMD, a process that may lead to novel treatments for early AMD.

Glaucoma Research

  • Meredith Gregory-Ksander, PhD, of the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, received The Thomas R. Lee Award for Glaucoma Research, to test whether inhibiting an important new regulator of inflammation in the eye’s optic nerve head will stop the development of glaucoma and vision loss.
  • Yvonne Ou, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, received The Dr. Douglas H. Johnson Award for Glaucoma Research, to better understand the steps between optic nerve cell injury, loss of nerve cell connections, and cell death in glaucoma -- an understanding that could ultimately lead to treatments before irreversible cell death occurs.

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.

The nonprofit BrightFocus Foundation drives innovative research worldwide and promotes public awareness of Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. For more information, call 1-800-437-2423 or visit