Clinician-scientist Speaks About Public-private Partnership to Discover Vision-saving Drugs Using NIH Screening Technology

May 16, 2011
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
[email protected]


(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) announced that its Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative is joining with private funding organization Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) in hosting a Congressional Briefing entitled Public-Private Partnership Leading to Discovery of Vision-Saving Drugs, to be held Thursday, June 9, 2011, from
12 Noon – 1:30 pm in House Rayburn B-340. RSVP to Dina Beaumont at [email protected].

Featured speaker and clinician-scientist Donald Zack, M.D., Ph.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University), who is funded by FFB, will describe how high-throughput drug screening systems employed by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) are being used to screen compounds to determine their therapeutic potential for treating disease, especially inherited rare diseases of the retina, which is the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye necessary for vision. These diseases, including Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Ushers Syndrome (combined deafness and blindness), and Stargardt disease (juvenile macular degeneration), occur in aggregate in approximately 200,000 Americans. More common retinal degenerative diseases, such as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 50 years of age, affect more than 10 million Americans. The NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI) estimates a $68 billion annual cost to the United States from vision impairment and eye disease.

Dr. Zack is collaborating with NCGC scientists, using their expertise in assay development and high-throughput screening to identify drugs that have the potential to save and restore vision. They have been able to identify several molecules with vision-saving potential, and they are now working to move them into animal and human studies. Without NCGC’s expertise and technology, that same effort would have taken multiple years.

Donald J. Zack, M.D., Ph.D. is the Guerrieri Professor of Genetic Engineering and Molecular Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University. He is also a professor in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Neuroscience, and the Institute of Genetic Medicine. Dr. Zack’s research into the pathogenesis of AMD, RP, and glaucoma is resulting in new paradigms to diagnose, prevent, and treat blinding eye diseases.

The Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR), a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation, is proud to announce this program associated with its Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative, a sustained educational effort acknowledged by Congress that recognizes the benefits of federally funded vision research. Visit its Web site at

The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc. (FFB) is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation dedicated to research that will provide preventions, treatments, and cures for people affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), macular degeneration, Usher Syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases. Visit its Web site at