BrightFocus Foundation

BrightFocus Foundation Recognizes Leading Alzheimer’s, Vision Researchers at 50th Anniversary Celebration Showcasing Impact of Science

  • Press Release
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Michael Kass, MD; Debra Tann, EdD; Mae Gordon, PhD; and Gerard D. Schellenberg, PhD.
2023 BrightFocus award recipients (from left): Michael Kass, MD; Debra Tann, EdD; Mae Gordon, PhD; and Gerard D. Schellenberg, PhD.

WASHINGTON (June 15, 2023) — BrightFocus Foundation hosted its 50th Anniversary Celebration and Awards on June 14 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The awards program honored exemplary scientists working to end Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma while celebrating the strides made over the last 50 years toward discovering cures for these three diseases. 

“Investing in bold, innovative research is the only path to a cure for these diseases affecting more than 300 million people worldwide,” said BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Haller. “We are proud to celebrate the progress made over the last half-century and recognize outstanding scientists.” 

The evening also featured a performance by actress and singer Megan Hilty, best known for her role as Ivy Lynn in the NBC musical drama “Smash,” and presentations by BrightFocus-funded scientists on their unique approaches to finding cures for diseases of mind and sight.


Gerard D. Schellenberg, PhD, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine 
BrightFocus Award for Scientific Impact 
Dr. Schellenberg’s work has furthered our understanding of the connection between genomics and Alzheimer’s, which is essential to curing and treating the disease.

Mae Gordon, PhD, and Michael Kass, MD, Washington University in St. Louis 
Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research 
The work of Drs. Gordon and Kass has transformed the way we understand and treat glaucoma.

Debra Tann, EdD, Reminiscent (Valdosta, Georgia) 
BrightFocus Award for Community Impact 
Dr. Tann, a dementia educator and advocate, is working to eradicate healthcare disparities among Black and Latino populations.

Four leading BrightFocus-funded scientists shared their current research findings during short presentations leading up to the awards ceremony. Topics included using a first-of-its-kind driving test to predict early Alzheimer’s, understanding the opposing effects of APOE4 on Alzheimer’s and glaucoma, advancing regenerative medicine to restore vision loss from glaucoma and other optic neuropathies, and exploring the role of inflammation and metabolism in age-related macular degeneration. 

As part of its 50th-anniversary celebration, BrightFocus hosted a bipartisan congressional briefing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, June 14, at 11:30 a.m., titled Health Equity Begins in the Lab: Future Breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s, Macular Degeneration, and Glaucoma Research Depend on Robust Funding and Clinical Trial Diversity.  A video recording and additional information will be made publicly available following the event. 
Learn more about the international nonprofit’s strides in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma and toward greater awareness of these diseases and explore a full timeline of historic scientific advancements at

About BrightFocus Foundation 

Now in its 50th year, BrightFocus Foundation is a premier global nonprofit funder of research to defeat Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Through its flagship research programs — Alzheimer’s Disease Research, National Glaucoma Research, and Macular Degeneration Research — the Foundation has awarded nearly $300 million in groundbreaking research funding and shares the latest research findings, expert information, and resources to empower the millions impacted by these devastating diseases. Learn more at




Julia Roth 
BrightFocus Foundation 

Kaci Baez 
BrightFocus Foundation