Catalyst for a Cure Begins New Research Phase

■ Glaucoma Research Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for glaucoma, has launched the third phase of its collaborative research program, Catalyst for a Cure. Called “The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative,” the new phase was recently announced.

The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative builds on 16 years of scientific research on the cause, early biological indicators, and measurement of glaucoma, and it will focus on restoring vision in glaucoma patients. It was introduced by David J. Calkins, PhD, chair of the Glaucoma Research Foundation Research Committee and Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Scientific Advisory Board, and O’Day Professor and Director for Research at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.

“Restoring sight lost to glaucoma is what we’ve all dreamed of,” said Dr. Calkins in a news release. “We believe it is a real possibility because we have the advances of our Catalyst for a Cure predecessors to build on. We know where to focus our efforts to not only stop the progression of glaucoma, but also to restore vision already lost.”

Dr. Calkins explained that glaucoma is often erroneously viewed as a disease resulting from elevated eye pressure. However, it is a disease that is caused by degeneration of the optic nerve. To date, the only treatment for glaucoma has been to lower pressure — either through drops, surgery, or both. The goal for The Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative is to preserve and repair the optic nerve, and to rebuild the nerve where damage has already resulted in vision loss.

“When the Catalyst for a Cure research began in 2002, it marked the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way we look at glaucoma,” Dr. Calkins continued. “Our focus now is on the optic nerve, and how we can treat it — by restoring, replacing or outright regenerating damaged retinal ganglion cells and their axons in the optic nerve — rather than on how to manage pressure in the front of the eye.”

Different from typical research models where scientists work individually and often compete for grant money, Catalyst for a Cure scientists are engaged in a research collaboration that builds on their collective strengths. By design, their multidisciplinary skills and efforts will enable them to move more quickly toward their goal.