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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2008
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

NAEVR’s HOUSE TESTIMONY REQUESTS FY2009 NIH AND NEI FUNDING AT $31 BILLION AND $711 MILLION, RESPECTIVELY, CITING LATEST NEI RESEARCH AND COLLABORATIONS

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) submitted written testimony to the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee requesting Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding of $31 billion and $711 million, respectively, or a 6.6 percent increase to match biomedical inflation and to begin restoring purchasing power lost in the past five funding cycles. NAEVR’s comments cited the latest NEI–funded research and collaborations, as follows:

  • In March 2008, NEI-funded researchers announced that two major eye diseases and leading causes of blindness—age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR)—can be reversed or even prevented by drugs that activate a protein found in blood vessels. The protein, Robo4, was activated in mouse models that simulate AMD and DR and treated and prevented the diseases by inhibiting abnormal blood vessel growth and by stabilizing blood vessels to prevent leakage. Since this research into the “Robo4 Pathway” used animal models associated with these diseases that are already used in drug development, the time required to test this approach in humans could be shortened, expediting approvals for new drug therapies.

  • In March 2008, NEI’s Survey of Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Related to Eye Health and Disease reported that 71 percent of respondents indicated that loss of their eyesight would rate as a "10" on a scale of 1 to 10, meaning that it would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day life. This research builds upon public opinion polls conducted over the past 40 years in which Americans have consistently identified fear of vision loss as second only to fear of cancer.

  • In March 2008, the NEI collaborated with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) on a meeting to consider alternative endpoints in clinical trials for drugs and devices used to diagnose and treat glaucoma, the second leading cause of preventable vision loss in all Americans and the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in African Americans and Hispanics. The meeting followed a November 2006 joint NEI/FDA-CDER meeting on clinical endpoints in AMD and DR clinical trials. As NAEVR noted, this collaboration between the NEI and FDA represents the cost-effectiveness of NEI funding, as its research results may ultimately shorten the time and cost associated with clinical trials, as well as facilitate the approval of new diagnostics and therapies for patients.

In releasing the testimony, NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky made the following statement:

"This testimony emphasizes the relevance of the latest NEI research and its immediacy in addressing the burden of eye disease and vision impairment growing ever larger as the first wave of 78 million Baby Boomers reach their 65th birthday in 2010. It also highlights NEI’s collaborations within the NIH, with other Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) agencies, and with private funding organizations. The NEI must be adequately funded to initiate promising new research, to pursue results that have emerged from previous breakthroughs, and to offer up its ‘fair share’ of funding in its extensive collaborations. As a result, NAEVR requests a 6.6 percent increase for both NIH and NEI funding in Fiscal Year 2009, or $31 billion and $711 million, respectively, to match the biomedical inflation rate and to begin restoring purchasing power lost over the past five funding cycles."

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. NAEVR’s goal is to achieve the best vision for all Americans through advocacy and public education for eye and vision research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Eye Institute (NEI) and other federal research entities. Visit NAEVR’s Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.