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An SRO Crowd Hears About Defense Vision Research Funding

A standing room-only crowd that spilled into the hallway attended NAEVR’s May 5 Defense-Related Vision Research Opportunities session, which focused on how researchers can be responsive to Department of Defense (DOD)-identified vision research gaps. Robert Read from the DOD’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), spoke about the status of grant applications submitted for the $14.5 million in FY2013 VTRP funding, noting that TATRC will add the $10 million in FY2014 VTRP funding (minus a sequester cut) to the FY2013 amount to award researchers down a list of the highest-scoring grants. Mr. Read attended the entire ARVO meeting and was joined by colleague Marc Mitchell in hosting meetings with interested researchers in the NAEVR Central booth.

Kenneth Bertram, M.D., Ph.D.. the Principal Assistant for Acquisition at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, spoke about the Horus Vision Restoration Project, a planned public-private initiative to restore functional vision to those who have experienced traumatic or functional enucleation. The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power, and good health.

Dr. Bertram reported that forty national experts in vision research (including National Eye Institute Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.) met in March 2014 to discuss this challenge, concluding that:

  • Although full vision restoration is daring, improved vision restoration may be achievable.

  • A Working Group will be formed to better define “vision” in terms of the target population and to assess applicable technologies/combination of technologies. This group will meet June 17 to explore current technologies with the goal of downselecting to 2-3 potential “system of systems” candidates.

  • This challenge has been expanded beyond traumatic enucleation to include functional enucleation, such as low vision injuries and degenerative disorders.
Since the USAMRMC has limitations in funding and government contracting mechanisms, it proposes to establish a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to manage and administer the effort.

NAEVR wishes to thank Dr. Bertram and Mr. Read/Mr. Mitchell for DOD’s participation in the ARVO Annual Meeting and their commitment to the soldiers that have experienced battlefield eye injuries.

Dr. Bertram describes the Horus Vision Restoration Project
Dr. Bertram describes the Horus Vision Restoration Project
Mr. Read describes the VTRP’s funding opportunities
Mr. Read describes the VTRP’s funding opportunities

Left to right: A panel of DOD/VTRP funded researchers, including James Weiland, Ph.D. (University of Southern California), Randy Kardon, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Iowa) and Tonia Rex, Ph.D. (Vanderbilt University) provided advice to attendees on how to be responsive to DOD funding requests
Prior to the session, Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Chief Advocate Glenn Minney, NAEVR’s guest at the meeting, speaks with Chief of Veterans Affairs Ophthalmology Glenn Cockerham, M.D. (Stanford University)
Prior to the session, Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Chief Advocate Glenn Minney, NAEVR’s guest at the meeting, speaks with Chief of Veterans Affairs Ophthalmology Glenn Cockerham, M.D. (Stanford University)