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Message from the NAEVR President

Welcome to www.eyeresearch.org, the Web site for the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), an advocacy organization. The 55 professional, patient and consumer, and industry organizations that comprise NAEVR are dedicated to advocacy for adequate federal funding of eye and vision research being sponsored by the NEI within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as other key government entities such as the Department of Defense (DOD)—where deployment-related vision trauma research has become an important issue and is funded by a dedicated Vision Research Program (VRP) budget—and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

With its affiliated educational foundation, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR), the NAEVR and AEVR Alliances serve as the "Friends of the National Eye Institute (NEI)." In 2013, the Alliances celebrated 20 years of leadership for vision research funding advocacy and education. Since that time, AEVR has been especially active in education. In 2014, it released results of a survey—which showed that across all major racial/ethnic groups Americans rate losing their eyesight as having the greatest impact on their daily life—that has subsequently been published in JAMA Ophthalmology (August 4, 2016, Online First section). In 2015 and 2016, AEVR hosted Emerging Vision Scientists Days on Capitol Hill to educate Congress about the plight of early-stage investigators.

We are in the midst of The Decade of Vision, as Congress has recognized in resolutions it passed in 2009 that, in the years 2010-2020, the number of Americans who face eye disease and vision loss will grow dramatically, primarily due to the aging of the population. This increased incidence of eye disease also means a growing economic burden—currently $145 billion annually and estimated to grow to $717 billion annually in inflation adjusted dollars by year 2050—so federally funded vision research at the NEI holds the promise to save and restore vision, as well as to reduce healthcare costs by increasing productivity, maintaining independence, and improving the quality of life, especially since vision loss is associated with increased depression and accelerated mortality.

Led by Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., the NEI’s Audacious Goals Initiative’s focus on regenerating neurons and neuronal connections in the eye and visual system within the next 10-15 years represents just one area of breakthrough NEI-funded research. NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. has commented often about the NEI’s long tradition of leading in the biomedical research arena, including working with the Human Genome Project to identify more than 500 genes associated with vision loss.

NEI’s basic research into the genetic basis of eye disease and the subsequent translation of that research into diagnostics and therapies has been complemented by other major breakthroughs. NEI-funded research has resulted in the first successful human gene therapy trial for blinding eye disease Leber Congenital Amaurosis and the first generation of Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs to inhibit new blood vessel growth in the "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness. The FDA has also approved an implanted retinal prosthesis to treat patients with blinding eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa. Although this so-called “Bionic Eye” may have been a fantasy just a few short years ago, it is helping those who are otherwise completely blind to identify doors, utensils on a table, and even crosswalks.

You may wish to take full advantage of this site by learning about the value and cost-effectiveness of federally funded eye and vision research and becoming an advocate by contacting your Members of Congress.

Sincerely,

Peter McDonnell, M.D.
President, NAEVR Board of Directors