The Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville has announced a $10 million gift from a family that wishes to remain anonymous in support of regenerative visual neuroscience research.
The largest gift ever to the institute will support "bench-to-bedside" research in seven VEI labs working to develop transformative therapies for diseases of the eye. VEI vice chair and director of research David Calkins, whose research is focused on the mechanism of neurodegeneration in glaucoma — the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide — has been awarded the first grant made possible by the gift.
"We have identified several promising avenues ranging from neuro-protection to gene therapy to neuro-replacement therapies for diseases of the retina and optic nerve," said Calkins, the Denis O'Day Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center. "We see opportunities not only to develop new science but to potentially attract and recruit new scientists committed to developing new therapies. As we strive to fulfill the promise of new innovative therapies, this gift will have lasting impact on the lives of our patients and their families in the years to come."
"Our family motto is helping people who help others," said a member of the donor family. "There is a lot of activity around regenerative medicine and the amount of excitement surrounding collaborative efforts to understand and ultimately cure blinding eye diseases. The number of people who can be helped by the work of the researchers at VEI is countless. What started as a single relationship with one physician years ago developed into a connection with a growing team of experts and researchers all dedicated to eliminating blindness. What really attracted me is the fact that VEI puts people first — it was obvious that their faculty is considered their biggest asset. We recognized the drive and focus on innovative work they are trained to do and didn't want them spending a lot of time looking for funds to support pioneering efforts."
(Photo credit: Gettyimages/batke)