Ten submissions — all from ARVO members — have been selected as prize winners in the National Eye Institute Audacious Goals challenge, a nationwide competition for compelling, one-page ideas to advance vision science. Each winner will receive a $3,000 prize plus travel expenses to attend the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24 – 26, 2013, at the Bolger Conference Center in Potomac, Md., outside Washington, D.C.
The NEI Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation is part of a government-wide effort to bring the best ideas that support the NEI mission to conduct and support research and other programs aimed at reducing the burden of vision disorders and disease worldwide.
“I saw the NEI Audacious Goals Challenge as an opportunity to voice my vision of the future of eye research to the leaders at NEI," said prize winner Tonia S. Rex, PhD, of Vanderbilt Eye Institute. “We are at a very exciting time in the field of biomedical research — many advances have been made in multiple fields that all can be applied to vision research and have a direct impact on the development of groundbreaking therapies."
The winners will present their ideas at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, which will include about 200 vision researchers, patient advocates, ophthalmologists and optometrists from the U.S. and abroad. The selected ideas will be discussed intensively for further expansion, development and refinement.
The winners and their audacious ideas are:
Dennis Clegg, PhD
University of California, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Regenerative Therapy for Retinal Disease
To treat degenerative retinal disease with an off-the-shelf tissue graft that could be implanted in the back of the eye to replace cells lost to disease.
Robert Duvoisin, PhD
Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Ore.
Restoration of Vision by Opto-electronic Stimulation
To restore vision by making nerve cells in the eye sensitive to light so that images captured by a camera can be converted to nerve signals that are sent to the brain.
Yingbin Fu, PhD
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Precise Gene Editing In Vivo
To permanently correct any disease-associated mutations in a patient through the use of molecules that are specially designed to target mutated DNA sequences and that can be delivered safely and efficiently into the eye.
Steven Pittler, PhD, FARVO
University of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.
Using Molecular Scissors Genome Editing to Cure Ocular Genetic Disease
To permanently correct gene defects in patients at the site of the mutation using molecules that act like scissors to precisely replace genome errors with the correct DNA sequence.
Rajesh Rao, MD
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and The Retina Institute, St. Louis, Mo.
An Audacious Goal: Reprogramming the Retina
To directly reprogram easy-to-isolate skin or blood cells to retinal cells using gene therapy and other techniques to enable repair strategies for degenerative retinal diseases.
Tonia Rex, PhD
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
Functional and Structural Neuroregeneration
To restore functional vision in patients who experience loss of axons — the threadlike extensions of a nerve cell that conduct electrical impulses — from the optic nerve as a result of traumatic optic neuropathy or glaucoma by complete axon regeneration.
Julia Richards, PhD, FARVO
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Fountains of Youth for the Eye
To turn back the aging process in the eye so that ocular diseases like age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma start 10, 20 or 30 years later than they now do.
Jeffrey Stern, MD, PhD, FARVO
Capital Region Retina, PLLC, Albany, N.Y.
Endogenous Retinal Repair: Releasing our Inner Salamander
To repair the retina by activating stem cells residing within the eye, awakening reparative processes that occur naturally in amphibians and other animals but which lay dormant in human patients.
Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD
University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
Reversing Retinal Blindness Using Small Molecules
To restore vision to patients with retinal diseases through the use of a photoswitch, a small molecule that is chemically modified to become active or inactive after exposure to certain wavelengths of light.
Janey Wiggs, MD, PhD, FARVO
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.
Vision BioBank — A Network of Ocular Phenotyping Centers Using Genomic and Epidemiologic Data to Promote Personalized Ophthalmology
To create a network of biobanks that collect corresponding phenotype (physical characteristics) and genotype (genetic) data of people with certain eye diseases; the biobanks could be used for a wide range of studies, including the development of sensitive and specific gene tests that could accurately determine a person’s risk for glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other common complex blinding diseases as well as their likely response to certain therapies.