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Research to Prevent Blindness Supports Mass. Eye and Ear Research

Contact: Mary Leach
617-573-4170

BOSTON (July 29, 2014) -- Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has awarded several grants to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology, including three Mass. Eye and Ear/HMS researchers, to support studies into the causes, treatment and prevention of blinding diseases.

  RPB has renewed the Department of Ophthalmology’s Unrestricted Grant for 2014 in the amount of $115,000. The grant is administered by Joan W. Miller, M.D., Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital, and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. RPB also has awarded research grants to Mass. Eye and Ear/HMS researchers Eric Pierce, M.D., and Michael Gilmore, Ph.D., and Lucia Sobrin, M.D., MPH.

Dr. Pierce is director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations and Electroretinography Service at Mass. Eye and Ear, and director of the Ocular Genomics Institute at HMS/Mass. Eye and Ear. Dr. Pierce is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms of inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), and improving therapeutic interventions for these conditions. He has been selected to receive a RPB Nelson Trust Award for Retinitis Pigmentosa Research in the amount of $100,000. The award is designed to stimulate, strengthen, and promote exceptional research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of retinitis pigmentosa.

Dr.  Gilmore is the founder and Principal Investigator of the Harvard-wide Program on Antibiotic Resistance, and of the academic/industry consortium Boston-Area Antibiotic Resistance Network (BAARN, www.abresistance.net). His research focuses on the evolution and development of multidrug resistant strains of enterococci, streptococci and staphylococci, and the development of new therapeutic approaches. Dr. Gilmore has been selected to receive a RPB Research Sabbatical award in the amount of $50,000. This sabbatical will enable Dr. Gilmore to spend time in world-leading basic research labs to acquire new skills and insights in structural biology and biofilm engineering in order to inform the design of new inhibitors of drug resistant bacteria.

Dr. Sobrin is a full-time clinician scientist with the Retina and Uveitis Services at Mass. Eye and Ear, and a Department of Ophthalmology Scholar. Her research program is focused on understanding environmental and genetic risk factors for diabetic retinopathy, particularly in the African American population, which suffers from a greater burden of this disease compared to other ethnicities. She is currently leading two large genetic studies of diabetic retinopathy that are designed to increase the chances of finding genes that impact the development of the disease in all ethnic groups. The RPB William & Mary Greve Special Scholar Award will enable Dr. Sobrin to expand these efforts and examine what environmental and genetic factors influence disease progression.

“We are grateful for this generous support from Research to Prevent Blindness. Their funding is essential to advance our research programs to find cures for diseases that cause blindness and visual impairment worldwide,” said Dr. Miller.

About Research to Prevent Blindness
RPB is the world’s leading organization supporting eye research. To date, the organization has awarded grants totaling more than $8,870,315 to Harvard Medical School. For information on RPB, RPB-funded research, eye disorders and the RPB Grants Program, go to www.rpbusa.org.