AMDF In the Trenches: Stimulating Research Through New Grants and Partnerships

Through a growing portfolio of research grants and creative partnerships with other eye research funders, the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) is finding ways to efficiently leverage its resources and accelerate the development of promising approaches to improve the lives of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients.

At AMDF, we have been hearing from researchers that the scientific community’s knowledge base about AMD has grown significantly, that technology is creating the possibilities for new assessment and drug delivery tools, and that the time is now to make a push and convert decades of discoveries into actual treatments.

As part of that push, the retooling of the AMDF Grants Program started in 2017 with the funding of Harvard’s Neena Haider, PhD, to pursue a “master switch” AMD gene therapy.  This year, the Foundation granted its first AMDF Prevention Award to fellow Harvard investigator Kip Connor, PhD, in the amount of $150,000. The award is for Dr. Connor’s proposed study, “Aging and Immunity in Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” which seeks to unravel the connections between some of the body’s immune cells (called microglia), the body’s inflammatory response, and nutrition-derived treatments.

We are also developing partnerships in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  We laid the groundwork for some of these during conversations that began at gatherings of eye researchers and eye research-funding groups last year and earlier this year. With Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), AMDF is funding two researchers who, starting in January 2019, will each receive an AMDF/RPB Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (“Catalyst Award”) at a rate of $300,000 across three years.  

RPB is the preeminent, nonprofit funder of research directed at the prevention, treatment or eradication of all diseases that threaten vision. With this partnership, we are creating an incentive for the world’s leading AMD scientists.  By aligning our resources with RPB, AMDF is more than doubling our capacity to foster life-changing breakthroughs.

“RPB’s grant-making expertise and broad awareness among the nation’s top vision researchers, when aligned with AMDF’s passionate commitment to those affected by AMD, creates the potential to generate remarkable discoveries,” adds Brian Hofland, PhD, President, RPB. “We are extremely pleased to be joining forces with AMDF in supporting this kind of high risk/high gain research.”  

The proposed studies submitted for these Catalyst Awards cannot have been previously funded by any other source, ensuring that fresh ideas will come to light. Some of them may be transformative.

At the same time, we are also extending our partnership with Fight for Sight, a funder of young vision researchers.  The new grants, which will be announced at next year’s Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting, will provide resources for postdoctoral scholars to conduct investigations and travel to the international ARVO meeting to share concepts with potential mentors.  This is a way to nurture the maturation of emerging scientists and maintain forward momentum through continuity.

“Ideas make a difference,” says Joan Miller, MD, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard, and Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass Eye and Ear and MGH. “They come from individual brains, and it is a huge enterprise to have these ideas and people come together toward solutions. Funding for this is critical, especially the early funding that comes from philanthropy and foundations to foster those ideas through academic research before they are more fully developed with federal funding and eventually tested and brought into production with the help of venture capital and pharmaceutical companies.”

This is precisely why AMDF recently provided financing for the 5th Biennial International Symposium on AMD, held at Harvard in October. The two-day event brought together more than 270 AMD researchers in a series of deep-dive, panel discussions to promote potential collaborations. Some of the world’s most established AMD scientists shared their knowledge with younger investigators and challenged them to consider additional areas of inquiry.  AMDF had the opportunity to conduct interviews with AMD thought leaders, which will soon appear on the AMDF web site.

AMD is a complex disease, and its prevalence is approaching epidemic proportions.  Already, there are 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 72 every single day and the risk of having AMD has reached 30 percent between the ages of 65 and 75. As a society, we have to acknowledge that this is a problem.  At AMDF, we are taking a multi-faceted approach toward solving it.

16 thoughts on “AMDF In the Trenches: Stimulating Research Through New Grants and Partnerships”

  1. Pleased let me know where I can send donations for future research on Macular degeneration.

    Thank you ,
    Claire Saoud

    1. Hi Claire, you can send donations to us at the address listed in our footer here on the website. You can also click the donate button at the top of the page for more detailed instructions. Thank you!

  2. I have a large port wine birthmark on the right side of my face. I have just been diagnosed with macula degeneration in my right eye …… Any connection?

  3. Can you comment on the best Desktop Video Magnifier on the market and why? Also the voice recognition ones, can you change the language? My husband who has AMD is versatile in 8 languages so I am trying to find a product that will enable to read any number of languages?

    1. Interesting question! Versatile in 8 languages? That’s impressive. We haven’t yet done a thorough review of the available desktop video magnifiers, but thank you for bringing it up. If you’ve since had any luck, let us know!

  4. I’m a baby-boomer . I have a hereditary component with relation to macular degeneration. My grandmother, mother and uncle had it.
    My eye Dr. told me to always wear my sunglasses even on cloudy days. Is there any other preventative measures I can use?
    Thank you

    1. Nancy,

      Yes, there are other lifestyle changes you can make if you haven’t already. If you smoke, quit, as this is a known risk factor. You can also eat healthy. See our section on “good food” under the treatments tab on the menu. Try not to use electronic devices in a dark room (phones, televisions, tablets, computers). See our other recommendations here https://www.macular.org/ten-things-you-can-do-improve-your-vision.

  5. Twenty months ago, my son was diagnosed with macular degeneration on one eye as well as diabetic retinopathy of his left eye. He is forty-four years old and needless to say, he has been unemployed since. Fortunately, he found health insurance even though he does not have a job.
    His journey so far has been quite frustrating but remains optimistic that he will regain enough eyesight to retrain for the job market. I would like to purchase whatever technology which would help him improve his vision. He doesn’t seem to be interested in E-Sight readers, so l’d like to offer him something affordable.

    1. Enedina,

      Sorry to hear that your son is experiencing vision loss at such a young age! We just recently reviewed some new technology that has been designed specifically for people with central vision loss due to macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. You can read about it here: https://www.macular.org/2019/10/01/amdf-reviews-seeboost-assistive-device-for-central-vision-loss.

      We would also highly recommend that he looks into vision rehabilitation services near him.

      Best of luck to your son!

  6. Hi!
    Let me begin by thanking the organization for its continued support/funding for macular degneration research. My purpose today is to see if AMDF can recommend assistive tech devices for viewing television and reading a newspaper?

    My mother-in-law has the wet form of macular with a loss of central vision. She also receives receives Lucentis eye injection.

    I’m looking into 2 devices: irisvision.com and Echen Bach’s mobilelux digital HD. Can you offer any advice on the reliability of these for viewing television or reading a regular newspaper?

    Thank you.
    Karla Lomangino

  7. Mother has MD; trying to find some type glasses that will help her to see better. we have heard of the
    E-Vision system and are wondering if this is a good way to go or not. If not, what is the best glasses for her to use to obtain the best possible sight she can ?

    1. Lorie,

      We recently posted a review about SeeBoost, a new technology developed specifically for central vision loss. You can read about that here: https://www.macular.org/2019/10/01/amdf-reviews-seeboost-assistive-device-for-central-vision-loss

      Otherwise, what we would recommend is that your mother tries out different devices before buying. One issue with many systems is that they are too heavy for all-day use, causing neck strain, and that won’t be apparent when just testing a device.

  8. I need help with AMD dry. I have been take supplements with no avail. Ut seems not to be helping. Greatly appreciated for any new treatments.

    1. Hi Judy,

      Just to be clear, the supplements are not likely to improve your vision. It’s best to think of supplements as a preventative in slowing down the progression of the disease. It’s hard to know if they’re “working” when you can’t see improvement and you have no idea how fast vision loss might progress without them. Have you made any other lifestyle changes? Here are some other recommendations. Again, these are not likely to improve your vision, but make it more likely you can retain the vision you have for longer. https://www.macular.org/ten-things-you-can-do-improve-your-vision

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