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NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving Testifies Before Senate Subcommittee Citing Breakthroughs in Aging Eye Research

Legislative Update
June 22, 2007

NAEVR's James Jorkasky congratulates Dr. Sieving on his testimony
NAEVRís James Jorkasky congratulates Dr. Sieving on his testimony
On June 22, National Eye Institute (NEI) Director Dr. Paul Sieving testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee. This hearing, appropriately entitled "A New Vision for Medical Research," was the last of a series of hearings featuring National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institute/Center Directors. In opening comments, Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) briefly acknowledged the June 19 Subcommittee markup and June 21 full Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at which a Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 LHHS appropriations bill was approved which would increase NIH and NEI funding by $1 billion and $14.8 million, respectively, over FY2007. Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) also attended and commented on the importance of the research being conducted by each of the Institutes represented at the hearing.

NEI Deputy Director Dr. Jack McLaughlin and Senate LHHS Subcommittee staff member Erik Fatemi
NEI Deputy Director Dr. Jack McLaughlin and Senate LHHS Subcommittee staff member Erik Fatemi
"NEI-funded research has resulted in remarkable advances to save and restore sight," stated Dr. Sieving, who in written and verbal testimony focused his comments on the vision public health challenge resulting from the aging of the baby boom generation. Citing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss, as an example of NEI research that meets NIH goals of research that is preemptive/preventive, predictive, personalized, and participatory, he described NEIís identification of genes associated with an increased risk of developing AMD; NEIís demonstration that antioxidant vitamins and minerals can reduce the progression of moderate to severe AMD by 25 percent; and new Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved ophthalmic drugs that are stabilizing and restoring vision loss.

In response to a follow-up question, Dr. Sieving announced that within the next two months, NEI-funded investigators would begin human clinical trials in the United States of a gene therapy to treat neurodegenerative eye diseases, including Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Previous research has restored vision in dogs with LCA.

Dr. Sieving was joined by the following Directors: Dr. Ruth Kirschstein (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), Dr. Lawrence Tabak (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research), Dr. David Schwartz (National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences), and Dr. Duane Alexander (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development).