January 05, 2011

School of Medicine Receives $10 Million to Study Retinal Disease

Jonathan Lass
Jonathan H. Lass

The Departments of Pharmacology and Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have been awarded a $10.1 million grant from the National Eye Institute (NEI) to research and develop new treatments for diseases of the retina, a leading cause of blindness.

“The grant strongly positions the School of Medicine and collaborating organizations to play a significant role in advancing the treatment of retinal diseases in order to restore quality of life to countless patients,” said Jonathan H. Lass, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and director of the University Hospitals Eye Institute. “It is the largest grant of its kind ever awarded to the university by the National Eye Institute, a tremendous achievement.” 

The NEI, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will award the grant over five years, funding the work of researchers in the pharmacology, ophthalmology and biomedical engineering departments at the School of Medicine, who are working in collaboration with the Retinal Therapeutics Study Group. This interdisciplinary consortium of investigators is screening FDA-approved drugs for their potential application to the treatment of eye diseases affecting the retina.

The combined group, which also includes researchers from the Cincinnati Drug Discovery Center, the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University, aims to accelerate the rate at which basic science discoveries are used to develop new therapies for complex retinal disorders and diseases.

Conditions affecting the retina, the tissue in back of the eye responsible for vision, are a primary cause of blindness in adults in the United States. Such diseases include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the main cause of blindness in adults over the age of 55. More than 1.3 million people in the U.S. are legally blind and 8 to 10 million aging individuals show signs of developing AMD, an incurable eye disease characterized by damage to the retina and the loss of central daylight vision.

Krzysztof Palczewski
Krzysztof Palczewski

 “The research being funded by the NIH is critical to availing patients of new, more effective treatments, particularly for diseases like AMD, for which there is currently no cure,” said Krzysztof Palczewski, John H. Hord Professor, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and principal investigator and director of the research funded by the new NEI grant. “Our goal is to develop new drugs based on the screening of FDA-approved drugs to evaluate their effectiveness in treating retinal diseases.”

Posted by: Emily Mayock, January 5, 2011 08:00 AM | News Topics: School of Medicine

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.