“I was recruited to this country as a fellow of the
Foundation Fighting Blindness,… to train in retinal genetics.”
What they share is a mutation in
a gene called CTRP5, also known as
C1QTNF5, which we’ve found can
cause AMD-like disease. So we’ve
been studying in the lab exactly
what that mutation and others do.
The Foundation’s grant allows us to
continue these studies so that we
can develop treatments.
Why the current focus on dry AMD?
I think it’s coincidental that the SAB
grants target macular degeneration.
All submissions to the SAB are
judged solely by scientific merit, and
they happened to rise to the top.
One thing it indicates, though, is
the AMD field has matured. These
grants are going to groups trying
different ways to understand this
disease and develop different types
of treatment. Compared to 10 years
ago, we know much more about
macular degeneration. We have
the data that helps understand the
disease better, and there are model
systems to carry out these studies
and the technology to do so.
What has been FFB’s role in
I’m originally from India. And if
you go back to 1991, I was recruited
to this country as a fellow of the
Foundation Fighting Blindness, to
the National Eye Institute to train in
retinal genetics. Since then, I have
continuously been supported by the
Foundation, becoming an investiga-
tor and a professor.
The thing that got me started is,
somebody donated funds to support
a fellow. Supporting me made me
continue my work and helped
me understand these diseases. If
someone donates $300,000, you
can support a complete study, like
mine. If someone gives a small
amount, you can send a student to
a conference to learn about retinal
diseases and get interested.
So whatever someone can give
the Foundation to keep this research
going matters. It’s where my career
began and why I’ve stayed with
retinal research. One, I got the
support. Two, it’s very exciting work.
And I’ve trained many people, and
they’re training many more. We are
building an army.
results showing that 100 people
have had eyesight restored—close
to 25 trials are either underway
or being prepared for launch.
Yes, 25 And not just for gene
therapies, but for stem-cell and
pharmaceutical treatments and
retinal prosthetics as well.
Dr. Radha Ayyagari, the subject of
the Researcher Profile, above, says it
best when explaining the heightened
activity in her area of expertise,
The research, she points out,
has “matured.” The data, the
technological tools, the resources—
all are poised to support a spectrum
of clinical trials FFB played a big role
in facilitating (pg. 4).
We can’t forget, however, that
each trial takes years to conduct.
And chances are not all will succeed.
Even if they do, the treatments
would benefit thousands as opposed
to the millions of people affected by
FFB’s targeted diseases.
It’s thus crucial to continue raising
awareness and funds—which is why
we spotlight in this issue our Vision-
Walk program (pg. 1), Gordon and
Llura Gund Family Challenge (pg. 6)
and gift-planning campaign (pg. 7).
We’re encouraged, but our work is
far from over.