Eversight announces 9 recipients of 2017 Eye & Vision Research Grants

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Eversight, a global nonprofit network of eye banks, has awarded nine grants totaling $155,323 through its Center for Eye and Vision Research.

The awards were determined by an independent review panel composed of distinguished scientists, ophthalmologists and health services researchers, who selected projects that aligned with the Eversight mission to restore sight and prevent blindness.

The Eye and Vision Research Grant program has awarded more than $3.5 million since 1980 to stimulate new and pioneering research. Several of these grant projects have led to larger studies and financial support from the National Institutes of Health.

"There's a real void when it comes to funding the initial investigative work that can launch new and groundbreaking discoveries," said Dr. Gregory Grossman, Eversight Director of Research. "But Eversight is committed to supporting research that may potentially lead to innovative therapies and treatments."

The Eversight Center for Eye and Vision Research is one of the only eye bank-led programs focused on providing scientists with innovative resources they need to find new cures and treatments for blinding eye conditions. For more information, visit eversightvision.org/research.

Grant recipients and amounts include:

Benjamin T. Aldrich, Ph.D.                        $15,323
An assistant research scientist at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Dr. Aldrich is testing the effects of different concentrations of coenzyme Q10 on mitochondrial respiration and cell death. Results of the study will help perfect a protocol for eye banks to improve how corneal tissue is stored, mitigating endothelial cell susceptibility and decreasing graft failures after cornea transplants.

Elizabeth A. Berger, Ph.D.                          $20,000
Dr. Berger, an assistant professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, is investigating a protein, thymosin beta 4, and its effectiveness treating bacterial keratitis when used in tandem with ciprofloxacin.

Brenda L. Bohnsack, M.D., Ph.D.              $15,000
An assistant professor in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Kellogg Eye Center, Dr. Bohnsack is studying stem cells in the corneal stroma and endothelium that give rise to many craniofacial and eye structures. Her work will provide important insight into the pathogenesis of congenital corneal diseases.

Sheldon R. Gordon, Ph.D.                          $15,000
Dr. Gordon, a professor in the department of biological sciences at Oakland University, is researching a protein his laboratory discovered on the surface of endothelial cells that could lead to a novel therapy for certain conditions like Fuchs' dystrophy that can cause vision loss and blindness.

Pedram Hamrah, M.D., FACS                    $20,000
Associate professor of ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Hamrah is investigating plasmacytoid dendritic cells and their role in the maintenance and function of corneal nerves.

Linda D. Hazlett, Ph.D.                              $20,000
A distinguished professor and interim vice dean of research and graduate programs at Wayne State, Dr. Hazlett is testing the hypothesis that glycyrrhizin, which is extracted from licorice root and possesses numerous pharmacological effects, can improve antibiotic effectiveness against multi-drug resistant corneal infections.

Ahmad Kheirkhah, M.D.                           $20,000
Dr. Kheirkhah, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, is researching how neuropeptides can enhance corneal endothelial cell survivability and in what way they can be used for a variety of conditions to reduce or prevent corneal blindness.

Han Peng, Ph.D.                                         $15,000
A research assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Peng is researching a possible approach for improving the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency—a problem often not recognized and treated in its early stages and may lead to corneal ulceration, scarring, chronic pain and vision loss.

Shunbin Xu, M.D., Ph.D.                           $15,000
Dr. Xu, an associate professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine, is investigating micro-ribonucleic acids, which can play important roles in inherited retinal diseases when they are defective.

Eversight is a charitable, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness through the healing power of donation, transplantation and research. Our network of community eye banks—in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and South Korea—is responsible for recovering, evaluating and providing human eye tissue for transplantation; supporting research into the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions; promoting donation awareness through public and professional education; and providing humanitarian aid to people around the world in need of corneal transplantation.