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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2005
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

NAEVR Requests FY2006 NEI Funding at $711 Million, Cites NEI Research Accomplishments

(Washington DC.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), on behalf of the eye and vision research community, requested that Congress fund the National Eye Institute (NEI) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 at $711 million, a 6 percent increase over FY2005. NAEVR is also calling for a 6 percent increase in the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) FY2006 budget to $30 billion. The President's FY2006 budget proposes funding increases for the NEI and NIH at less than 1 percent.

"We are asking Congress to make eye and vision research funding a top priority among the many priorities it faces in this budget cycle," said NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky. "In 2004, NEI-sponsored studies in the fast-growing aging and minority populations reported that eye disease and vision impairment is a major public health problem that is increasing substantially. Although its annual economic cost to our country is estimated at $68 billion and growing, no number can fully quantify the impact of vision loss on the quality of life of individuals who experience it. That is why adequately funding the NEI is so important, as its research is a valuable and cost-effective investment in the vision health of all Americans."

Jorkasky noted that NEI's basic and translational research is resulting in treatments and therapies that can prevent the onset of disease and restore vision, citing such examples as:

  • NEI is conducting additional clinical trials on nutritional supplements that may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans. This follows an initial clinical trial that found that zinc and three antioxidant vitamins (Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene) are effective in reducing vision loss in people at high risk for developing advanced AMD.

  • An NEI-sponsored study has found that eye injections of bone marrow-derived stems cells prevented vision loss in two rodent models of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a family of eye diseases that cause vision loss. This study raises the possibility that patients could receive an injection of their own bone marrow stem cells to preserve central vision.

  • NEI-supported investigators are moving closer to human clinical trials of a gene therapy to treat neurodegenerative eye diseases, including Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), which is a rapid retinal degeneration that blinds infants in the first year of life. Previous research resulted in restored vision in dogs with LCA.

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 44 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.