AEVR’S September 16 Capitol Hill Briefing on the Translation of the AMD Gene Discovery Concurrent with Anticipated Congressional Action on Research Funding

August 27, 2008
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
[email protected]


(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) announced a Congressional Briefing on the status of translation into prevention, diagnostic, and treatment strategies of the discovery in 2005 of gene variants associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The briefing New Developments into the Genetic Basis of AMD will be held Tuesday, September 16, from 12 Noon -1:15 pm in Room B-339 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Contact Dina Beaumont at 202-530-4672 or [email protected] to RSVP.

The briefing, held in recognition of International AMD Awareness Week 2008 (September 21-27), is co-sponsored by AMD Alliance International, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Lighthouse International, Alliance for Aging Research, and Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research. The featured speaker is Gregory Hageman, Ph.D. (University of Iowa), a lead researcher of one of the four independent teams reporting the association between variants of the Complement Factor H gene and the risk for developing AMD. Dr. Hageman spoke about this discovery at a September 2005 AEVR Briefing and will describe current research efforts, most of which are funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NEI funded the initial gene discovery in conjunction with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), also within NIH.

“This briefing addresses one of the key challenges in medical research-translating genetic findings into treatments-as stated by NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. in his July 16 testimony before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee,” stated AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky. “The briefing is timely in that Congress is expected to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) prior to its election recess that would fund the government until Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations, including those for the NIH, can be finalized.”

NEI reports that AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, with almost 10 million individuals age 40+ currently experiencing intermediate-to-advanced stage of the disease. Currently, 200,000 Americans each year develop advanced AMD, and this number is expected to double by year 2020. AMD affects a part of the eye called the “macula.” In “dry” AMD, abnormal deposits of proteins called drusen form in the macula, and in “wet” AMD, new blood vessels grow into the same region, damaging this sensitive tissue. Since the macula is essential to central vision, AMD severely affects a person’s ability to read and drive, which has an enormous impact on productivity, independence, and quality of life.

Gregory S. Hageman, Ph.D., was a lead researcher of one of the four independent teams that reported the Complement Factor H discovery. He is a Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the Iowa Entrepreneurial Professor at the University of Iowa. Dr. Hageman is founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Optherion, Inc., a biotechnology company that has partnered with the University of Iowa and various commercial entities to develop diagnostics and treatments for AMD.

Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation dedicated to education about the importance of federal funding for eye and vision research. Visit its Web site at

AMD Alliance International (AMDAI) is a non-profit coalition of the world’s leading vision, research, and seniors organizations working together to raise awareness of AMD, of treatment and rehabilitation options, and of the importance of early detection. Alliance membership currently comprises 60 non-profit organizations from 22 countries, including world-renowned leaders in ophthalmology, vision rehabilitation, patient and senior’s advocacy, and research.
Visit its Web site at

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include more than 12,500 eye and vision researchers from 70 countries. The Association encourages and assists research, training, publication, and dissemination of knowledge in vision and ophthalmology. Visit its Web site at

Lighthouse International, founded in 1905, is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to preserving vision and to providing critically needed health care services to help people of all ages overcome the challenges of vision loss. Through services, education, research, and advocacy, the Lighthouse enables people with low vision and blindness to enjoy safe, independent, and productive lives. Visit its Web site at

Alliance for Aging Research was founded in 1986 as a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the health and independence of aging Americans through public and private funding of medical research and geriatric education. The Alliance combines the interests of top scientists, public officials, business executives, and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today’s older generation. Visit its Web site at

Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research is a coalition of more than 300 patient and voluntary health groups, medical and scientific societies, academic and research organizations, and industry. It has one mission: to enhance the federal investment in biomedical, behavioral, and population-based research by increasing the funding for the National Institutes of Health. Visit its Web site at