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Scientists receive $110,000 grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (11-17-00)

The Department of Ophthalmology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) has received a $110,000 unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness. W.A.J. van Heuven, M.D., professor of ophthalmology and chairman of the department, is the grant director.

The grant supports research into the causes, treatment and prevention of blinding eye diseases. Since 1980, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has provided 23 grants to fund research at UTHSC. A cumulative total of $1,272,900 has supported the initiation of new research programs, salaries, investigators, equipment, pilot projects and specific laboratory research.

“This generous, unrestricted funding has enabled us to attract additional support for eye research efforts,” Dr. van Heuven said. “This year alone, the Department of Ophthalmology was able to obtain $2.56 million in new research funds, much of which would have been impossible without the initial and ongoing support of Research to Prevent Blindness.”

RPB grants are awarded with the specific condition that the donation be free of institutional overhead. Almost every penny that RPB donates, or which other donors give to RPB, is used for the specific purpose of preventing, curing and finding treatments for blinding eye disease.

“The Department of Ophthalmology is grateful for the initial and sustained support of RPB for its research efforts,” Dr. van Heuven said. “These largely have been in the areas of basic science, with focus on the mechanisms of glaucoma, macular and other retinal degeneration, corneal disease, and diabetic and other vascular disorders. We also have found new treatments that use drugs or lasers.”

Jules Stein, M.D., an ophthalmologist and philanthropist, founded RPB in 1960. He established a restricted endowment to develop and support long-term research objectives at universities, and vigorously encouraged gifts from individuals and other non-governmental sources.

Dr. Stein established an additional legacy to match, on an annual basis, all gifts to RPB up to a total of $1 million, thus doubling the contributions from others. In 1961, RPB launched a unique laboratory construction program with such resounding success that it led to the coast-to-coast development of modern eye “institutes” serving millions of Americans. A few years later, RPB initiated and spearheaded the movement that created the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health.

RPB’s professional staff is the smallest among all major organizations in the voluntary health field. RPB neither seeks nor accepts funds from any governmental source. It relies on bequests and selected appeals to interested individuals, corporations and private foundations to support its research effort.

Potential contributors to eye research are invited to contact RPB directly at Research to Prevent Blindness, 645 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-1010. They also may call the Health Science Center at (210) 567-8402 or write to the Department of Ophthalmology, M/S 6230, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900.

Dr. van Heuven is the Herbert F. Mueller Chair in Ophthalmology at the Health Science Center.

Contact: Will Sansom