Blind World

Grants from research to prevent blindness surpassed $8m in 2003, USA.

June 30, 2004.
Research to Prevent Blindness.

Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), the world's leading voluntary health organization supporting eye research, awarded 80 new grants totaling $8,137,000 million in 2003 for research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of all blinding diseases.

The RPB awards included research grants to departments of ophthalmology at 44 medical schools throughout the United States. With the addition of the new individual awards, such as the Lew R. Wasserman Merit Award, Medical Student Eye Research Fellowships, Senior Scientific Investigator, Physician-Scientist and Career Development Awards, a total of 192 individual ophthalmic scientists conducted research with RPB funds in 2003.

In the same period of time, 883 scientific papers published in 198 professional journals acknowledged RPB for grant support. The organization has posted a complete bibliography of those papers on its web site,, along with its 2003 Annual Report containing highlights of those findings and descriptions of the new 2003 grants.

“It is gratifying to find that RPB’s strategy is yielding such an abundance of critical information, especially since recent studies indicate that the prevalence of eye disease is on the rise,” said Diane S. Swift, President of Research to Prevent Blindness.

Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled more than $220 million to medical institutions throughout the United States. As a result, RPB has been identified with nearly every major breakthrough in eye research in that time, including the development of laser surgery now used to treat diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, myopia, retinal detachment and astigmatism.*

Recent developments reported in the media that were supported by grants from RPB include: the results of a study showing that the use of daily pressure-lowering eye drops can delay or possibly prevent the onset of glaucoma in African Americans at higher risk for developing the disease; the results of a study indicating that long hours spent in the sun increase the risk of blindness later in life due to age-related maculopathy; the preliminary finding that therapy with statins (lipid-lowering medications) or aspirin is associated with decreased rates of abnormal blood vessel formation in patients with age-related macular degeneration; and discoveries about the transfer of nutrients to the eye’s lens that could lead to therapies for cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness.

In 2003, additional RPB grants were approved for research into: how circuits in the retina create vision and the mechanism behind changes in vision sensitivity; the influence of specific genes on various forms of uveitis (inflammation of certain eye structures); protecting eye nerve cells from stress-induced death; new means to prevent virus-induced blindness; the effect of low blood sugar levels on human visual sensitivity and, potentially, macular pathologies such as macular degeneration; developing a test to predict early-stage glaucoma before the onset of irreversible loss of the visual field; restoring the capacity for visual signaling in the diseased retina; developing markers for pre-symptomatic diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy; reanimating paralyzed eye muscles; further uncovering the genetic basis of myopia (nearsightedness); and more.

Among the vision scientists fighting eye diseases are 13 active Jules and Doris Stein RPB Professors who receive $375,000 each over five years (and up to $100,000 in a matching grant for laboratory construction), and 46 RPB Career Development Awardees who receive $200,000 over four years.

RPB's comprehensive grants program operates with economy and efficiency. Historically, 81% of RPB expenditures have gone directly for eye research. The organization's fund-raising cost ratio has been 2% for more than four decades of service, and its professional staff of ten is among the smallest of all major organizations in the voluntary health field.

*To obtain free information about these or other eye diseases, contact RPB.

Research to Prevent Blindness
645 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022-1010
212-752-4333 or 1-800-621-0026
FAX: 212-688-6231
Web site:

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