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Six Harvard Medical School Researchers Win Prestigious $1.3M Vision Award

SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 (Lisbon, Portugal) Six Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers were among the recipients honored with world’s largest prize in eye research, the Champalimaud Vision Award given for groundbreaking therapy that treats leading cause of blindness.

The impact of the 2014 Champalimaud Laureates’ work is significant. According to the National Eye Institute, 2.1 million people in the U.S. have AMD; as the population ages, the number of cases is expected to increase to 3.7 million by 2030.

The groundbreaking treatment has preserved quality of life and independence for millions of older adults worldwide.

With the introduction of treatment using injections of vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors, known as anti-VEGF, in the past decade, physicians are able to successfully halt vision loss caused by both wet and dry AMD, and diabetic retinopathy. The groundbreaking treatment has preserved quality of life and independence for millions of bannersadults worldwide. The researchers will use the funds from the award to further their research efforts to cure blindness.

His Excellency Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, president of Portugal, announced the recipients at a ceremony in Lisbon:

  • Joan Whitten Miller, MD,FARVO, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
  • Evangelos S. Gragoudas, MD, FARVO, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
  • Patricia A. D’Amore, PhD, MBA, FARVO, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
  • George L. King, MD, FARVO, of Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School; and
  • Lloyd Paul Aiello, MD, PhD, FARVO, of the Beetham Eye Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
  • Anthony P. Adamis, MD, FARVO, of Genentech/Roche, who is also affiliated with Harvard Medical School;
  • Napoleone Ferrara, MD, of University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center;

The laureates worked in parallel and in collaboration to identify vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as the major trigger for angiogenesis in the eye. Angiogenesis, or blood vessel growth, underlies the pathology of various blinding retinal disorders, including AMD and diabetic retinopathy. Abnormal vascular growth ―a process called neovascularization ― above or below the retina allows fluid to leak into the central retina, causing vision loss.

The researchers demonstrated that blocking VEGF could suppress ocular angiogenesis. This biomedical breakthrough led to a new class of ophthalmic anti-VEGF drugs, which first became available in the U.S. in December 2004.

More information about the award and the recipients is available here.