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Members of Congress, NIH and NEI Directors Recognize AEVR/NAEVR and Vision Community for Dedication to the Vision Health of All Americans

June 10, 2008

Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX) provides a welcome
Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX) provides a welcome
On June 9, the foyer of the Rayburn House office building was packed with guests attending a reception recognizing the 15th anniversary of AEVR and NAEVR, which serve as the privately funded "Friends of the National Eye Institute (NEI)." At the event, NAEVR also released its updated joint fact sheet with Research!America entitled Vision and Blindness: Investment in Research Saves Lives and Money.

Cong. Pete Sessions (R-TX) provided an inspirational welcome to the brief program, in which he lauded the 55 member organizations that comprise the Alliances for their efforts to prevent blindness and save and restore vision. Earlier in the evening, Congressional Vision Caucus co-Chair Cong. Gene Green (D-TX) mingled with attendees, which included Congressional staff, administration representatives, coalition partners, and AEVR/NAEVR contributor organizations.

Cong. Gene Green (D-TX, center) with NAEVR Advocacy Manager David Epstein (left) and AEVR/NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky (right)
Cong. Gene Green (D-TX, center) with NAEVR Advocacy Manager David Epstein (left) and AEVR/NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky (right)
In opening comments, AEVR and NAEVR Boards President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute) acknowledged a letter of congratulations from National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D., which read, in part, "I am pleased to recognize 15 years since the founding of AEVR and NAEVR and I applaud your unwavering efforts to preserve the nationís commitment to eye and vision research." NIH was represented at the event by Alan Krensky, M.D., Director of NIHís Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), which manages the NIH common fund for trans-Institute research. Dr. Ryan stated that, "During the past 15 years, we have seen dramatic breakthroughs in vision research emerging from the NEI, from understanding the genetic basis of eye disease to developing treatments that save and restore vision," adding that, as a practicing ophthalmologist, "I can assure you that these therapies are having a fundamental impact on the productivity, independence, and quality of life of all Americans."

Research!America President Mary Woolley highlighted details from the fact sheet and noted that her organizationís polling data consistently demonstrate that Americans want more spent on medical research, even if it meant an increase in their taxes. NEI Director Paul Sieving M.D., Ph.D., thanked AEVR/NAEVR for sharing the message about the value of the research emerging from the NEI, including the recently released initial promising results from human gene therapy trials for Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a debilitating form of childhood blindness. Dr. Sieving will speak about these results at a June 24 Congressional briefing hosted by AEVR and the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), which co-funded the research with NEI.

In introducing the last speaker, Hyman Shapiro, who is the featured patient on the fact sheet, AEVR/NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky emphasized that the focus of the Alliancesí work is ultimately patients with vision impairment and eye disease. Mr. Shapiro related his experience with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), noting his involvement in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), an NEI-funded study which demonstrated that high levels of dietary anti-oxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of progression to advanced AMD by a factor of 25 percent. He is hopeful that dietary supplements, coupled with the new AMD treatments also emerging from NEI-funded research, can maintain his remaining vision.

The Alliances were founded in 1993 by three leading vision community organizations—the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO).

AEVR/NAEVR Boards President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute)
AEVR/NAEVR Boards President Stephen Ryan, M.D. (Doheny Eye Institute)
Left to right: Craig Geist, M.D. (Ophthalmology Department Chair, George Washington University) and NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
Left to right: Craig Geist, M.D. (Ophthalmology Department Chair, George Washington University) and NEI Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
Left to right: Research!America President Mary Woolley and patient Hyman Shapiro in front of his featured profile on the joint R!A/NAEVR fact sheet Vision and Blindness Left to right: Research!America President Mary Woolley and patient Hyman Shapiro in front of his featured profile on the joint R!A/NAEVR fact sheet Vision and Blindness Left to right: ARVO Executive Director Joanne Angle and NIHís Alan Krensky, M.D. (Director, Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives, OPASI)
Left to right: ARVO Executive Director Joanne Angle and NIHís Alan Krensky, M.D. (Director, Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives, OPASI)
Left to right: EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Executive Director Torrey Smitherman, Armand DeKeyser (MITA Group), and Dr. Ryan
Left to right: EyeSight Foundation of Alabama Executive Director Torrey Smitherman, Armand DeKeyser (MITA Group), and Dr. Ryan
Left to right: Blinded Veterans Associationís Director of Government Relations Tom Zampieri, Ph.D., and Executive Director Tom Miller with NAEVRís David Epstein
Left to right: Blinded Veterans Associationís Director of Government Relations Tom Zampieri, Ph.D., and Executive Director Tom Miller with NAEVRís David Epstein