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Video Spotlight: Mark Filla, PhD

Mark Filla, PhD of the University of Wisconsin, Madison was the inaugural recipient of The Shaffer Prize for Innovative Science. Dr. Filla received the award in January 2008 based on his research results from a 1-year Pilot Project grant from the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Topics in this video interview with Dr. Filla:

  • Project research summary
  • Significance of research
  • Research results presented at ARVO meeting
  • Pilot Grant from GRF bridged funding gap

The Shaffer Prize recognizes Dr. Filla for the excellent research he conducted when the Glaucoma Research Foundation funded his Pilot Project in 2006. Results of Dr. Filla’s research were selected for publication in the July 2006 edition of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, and point the way to possible new therapies less likely to elicit side effects.


Mark Filla, PhD: The proposal that we submitted to the GRF revolved around the idea of trying to come up with new and alternative therapeutics for treating glaucoma. The therapies that are out there right now typically have a lot of ocular and systemic side effects. And so, the idea that we were trying to come up with is to have a better treatment that was more specifically targeted towards the tubercular meshwork. Those are the cells that relay are the primary regulator of outflow in the eye.

Significance of research

And so, the hope is that these different therapeutics might be better for the patients in terms of less side effects. It gets to the basic mechanisms of how outflow is regulated and how that may go wrong in situations where there's glaucoma. So, it's really more of a basic research level, of trying to understand the fundamental mechanisms behind outflow — that regulate outflow — that may contribute to glaucoma.

Research results presented at ARVO meeting

A portion of the research that was finished during the funding period was presented at last year's ARVO meeting down in Fort Lauderdale, and then specifically what was being presented was some work on a peptide that actually causes the cytoskeleton to change in such a way that it might actually decrease outflow and then maybe be a cause, or lead to a cause, or to the development of glaucoma. So that's the data that we actually presented at ARVO. And it was pretty well-received; people were pretty interested in what we were presenting.

Pilot Grant from GRF bridged funding gap

In terms of the significance of the GRF funding that we got — it really acted as an important bridge for us in terms of funding. Because at the time we got it, we were between NIH grants, and it really allowed us to bridge that gap, and maintain the lab, and to start some of these preliminary studies that we wanted to pursue. So in that sense, it was very important.

I think the only other thing I would have to say is that we think that, what we've been looking at in the proposal regarding this new alternative therapeutics — it holds a lot of promise. It's not something that's going to be happening immediately, this is certainly down the road. But we think we're on the right track.

Current Research Focus

What I'm specifically interested in is processes behind steroid-induced glaucoma. There's a particular rearrangement of this cellular skeletal system that has been found in cases of steroid-induced glaucoma. So what my current research is focused on is dissecting out the biochemical pathways that regulate these changes.

Now, ultimately then, the research that I have already done regarding the GRF grant, that actually ties into this whole thing, because those peptides, what the work found, is that these peptides can actually disrupt these skeletal changes within the cell, and ultimately may lead to the development of these therapeutics.

Last reviewed on September 14, 2015

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