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Innovative Research, Measurable Progress

At Glaucoma Research Foundation, we are dedicated to speeding the pace of discovery to find a cure for glaucoma.

Since 1978, we have invested over $35 million to advance scientific and clinical knowledge about how glaucoma steals sight.

Our Shaffer Grants provide seed funding for creative pilot research projects. These one-year awards of $40,000 help to initiate promising research ideas. In 2015, we are funding 8 scientists for a total of $320,000 in research grants to support new ideas. To date, we have awarded 200 grants to explore new ideas in glaucoma research.

The scientific results from these grants allow the researcher to obtain larger, more competitive funding. Each award, on average, leads to follow-on funding from the National Eye Institute and other organizations totaling $160,000 — an excellent return on investment.

  • A Glaucoma Research Foundation Shaffer Grant funded one of the first research studies to identify a gene that cause glaucoma.
  • Another example of GRF research innovation was the Collaborative Normal Tension Glaucoma study, the first clinical study to verify that lowering pressure saves vision.

Long-term Collaborative Research Focused on Results

Our Catalyst For a Cure (CFC) collaborative research consortium has brought important new ideas to the glaucoma field. 2015 is the 14th year of this unique collaboration.

Research funded by our donors has expanded scientific knowledge of the mechanisms by which retinal ganglion cells are damaged and die in glaucoma. These key understandings are the first significant steps toward targeted interventions to protect the optic nerve from glaucoma’s damage.

Among other findings, CFC scientists have shown in their model of glaucoma that:

  • Reducing inflammation preserves vision
  • Some of the earliest changes in glaucoma may actually occur in the brain, where the brain connects to the optic nerve
  • Plaques similar to those in Alzheimer's appear at the optic disc in glaucoma.

Catalyst For a Cure is an ongoing, multi-year collaboration of four laboratories at leading universities including the Medical College of Wisconsin, University of California San Diego, and University of California, Davis .

Game-changing Research Innovation

In 2001, we challenged four bright young investigators with complementary skills - specialists in the brain, nervous system, retina, and genetics - to work collaboratively to deliver practical findings that would help unlock the mysteries of glaucoma.

In choosing the initial four CFC principal investigators, we intentionally sought experts in their field of study who had not previously studied glaucoma.

We asked them to only do projects that take full advantage of their combined skill sets, working in real-time collaboration, sharing data, and publishing their results as a team.

Now, the original four CFC Principal Investigators are recognized experts in glaucoma research, and they are engaging many more young scientists in the challenge of unlocking glaucoma’s mysteries. See a bibliography of published research findings.

In 2012, Glaucoma Research Foundation assembled a second team of four investigators to work collaboratively and further expand our knowledge of glaucoma. This team has added critical skills and fresh perspectives to the Catalyst for a Cure.

Speeding the Cure with Translational Research

Translational research is about translating basic research findings into medical practice to improve health outcomes. The Glaucoma Research Foundation encourages the CFC scientists to focus on translational research that will accelerate the pace of discovery, leading to potential new treatments to help glaucoma patients.

World’s Experts Provide Leadership

Each year, the CFC scientists report their research progress to an Advisory Board comprised of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and neurobiology as it applies to glaucoma - and they report their progress directly to the donors at the Glaucoma Research Foundation Annual Benefit. In a full-day meeting, their Advisors review and evaluate the CFC’s findings and provide guidance on which directions are most promising to pursue.

Our Scientific Advisory Committee annually evaluates grant applications and selects which projects will receive $40,000 Shaffer Grants.

Measuring Research Results

The success of the Catalyst For a Cure and the Shaffer Grants can be measured by publications in peer-reviewed journals and follow-on funding.

  • The CFC has completed more than 100 publications and presentations, as well as several significant articles in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience.
  • Multi-year grants awarded to CFC investigators by the National Eye Institute further validate the CFC’s productive research contributions.
  • Shaffer Grant recipients have published over 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals that attest to the quality of results from the projects funded.

Independent Reviewer Confirms Effectiveness

In 2010, we invited an anonymous, independent expert reviewer from a leading university to evaluate the Catalyst For a Cure based on publications and annual progress reports. This independent reviewer determined that the investigators are moving in the right direction, their work has been productive, and that the work of the CFC has impacted the whole glaucoma research community.

The Goal: Preserving Vision for a Lifetime

The degenerative process in primary open-angle glaucoma is very slow. Researchers are now thinking about how to delay disease progression enough to preserve vision for a person’s lifetime.

CFC research findings have shown that there are many changes in the retinal ganglion cell akin to what is seen in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

They are seeking ways to target the disease at its earliest stages, so that innovative treatments might be developed to significantly delay disease progression even in patients who do not respond to current medical and surgical treatments that only lower pressure in the eye.

Accelerating Breakthroughs

The focused, long-term effort of the Catalyst For a Cure continues to discover new mechanisms involved in the loss of retinal neurons which could open new therapeutic targets — and serves as a national role model for effective research.

Our one-year Shaffer Grants stimulate new ideas and encourage promising new investigators to make a career in glaucoma research. 90% of Shaffer Grant recipients since the year 2000 are still focused on glaucoma research today.

This combination of long-term collaborative research and one-year grants for new ideas is accelerating breakthroughs in the way glaucoma is understood, and opening the door to developing better treatments for glaucoma patients.

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

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