|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2009
|CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
NAEVR CITES LATEST NEI RESEARCH IN HOUSE TESTIMONY THAT URGES AT LEAST A SEVEN PERCENT INCREASE IN FY2010 FUNDING TO $32.4 BILLION NIH/$736 MILLION NEI
(Washington, D.C.) In written testimony submitted today by the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) to the hearing record of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, NAEVR urged at least a seven percent increase in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI). This number, which reflects a modest three percent increase plus biomedical inflation (FY2009 level of 3.8 percent), would restore purchasing power lost due to flat funding and biomedical inflation over the past six funding cycles. At least a seven percent increase would mean NIH funding at $32.4 billion and NEI funding at $736 million.
NAEVR commended Congress for its support in FY2008 and 2009 for NIH, including the $150 million in the FY2008 supplemental dedicated to investigator-initiated grants, the $10.4 billion in two-year stimulative NIH funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the final FY2009 appropriations inflationary increase of 3.2 percent. However, NAEVR added that NIH needs sustained and predictable funding to rebuild its base, and that annual increases of at least seven percent put NIH on a pathway to budget-doubling within the next ten years.
NAEVR provided examples of the latest NEI research findings, including:
NAEVR also highlighted new NEI programs, including:
- In 2005, NEI reported that gene variants of Complement Factor H (CFH), the protein product of which is engaged in the control of the body’s immune response, are associated with increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss. NEI-funded researchers are now working on potential therapies, including the manufacture and use of a protective version of the CFH protein in an augmentation strategy similar to that of treating diabetes with insulin. This therapy is under development and expected to enter Phase I clinical safety trials in Summer 2009.
- In late April 2008, researchers funded by the NEI and private funding organization Foundation Fighting Blindness reported on their use of gene therapy to restore vision in young adults who were virtually blind from a severe form of the neurodegenerative disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, known as Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Although the primary goal of the Phase I study was to ensure patient safety, the researchers reported through both objective and subjective testing that the patients were able to read several lines on an eye chart, had better peripheral vision, and better eyesight in dimly lit settings.
The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. Visit the Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.
- NEI Glaucoma Human genetics collaBORation, known as NEIGHBOR, through which seven U.S. research teams will lead genetic studies of the disease. Glaucoma is called the “stealth robber of vision” as it often has no symptoms until vision is lost, and anywhere from 50-75 percent of individuals with it are undiagnosed. It is also the leading cause of preventable vision loss in African American and Hispanic populations
- The Neuro-Ophthalmology Research Disease Investigator Consortium, or NORDIC, which will initially lead multi-site observational and treatment trials, involving nearly 200 community and academic practitioners, to address the risks, diagnosis, and treatment of two “rare” diseases: idiopathic intracranial hypertension (visual dysfunction due to increased intracranial pressure) and thyroid eye disease (also called Graves’ disease, in which muscles of the eye enlarge and cause bulging of the eyes, retraction of the lids, double vision, decreased vision, and irritation).
- Chinese American Eye Study, which will characterize the extent of eye disease in Chinese Americans, the largest Asian sub-group in the US. Participants 50 years and older will be evaluated for blindness, visual impairment, and eye disease. There is currently almost no information on the prevalence, risk factors, and genetic determinants in Asian Americans—one of the fastest growing racial groups in the US. Studies from East Asia have suggested that Asians have a spectrum of eye diseases different from that of White Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics. The observations will add to the expanding body of knowledge about aging eye disease and build upon other major NEI studies on African American and Hispanic eye health.