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Penn receives $12.5 million from NIH to speed discovery to patient care
Date:10/3/2011

PHILADELPHIA Three labs from the University of Pennsylvania have received $12.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of its $143.8 million national grant program to challenge the scientific status quo with innovative ideas that have the potential to speed the translation of medical research into improved health for the American public.

These awards are granted under three innovative research programs supported by the NIH Common Fund: the NIH Director's Pioneer, New Innovator, and Transformative Research Projects Awards. The Common Fund, enacted into law by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act, supports trans-NIH programs with a particular emphasis on innovation and risk taking.

Penn has recipients in each of the three categories.

The key investigators on the Pioneer Award are Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator of the study, Luk Vandenberghe, PhD, and Albert M. Maguire, MD, all at the F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology, Scheie Eye Institute, Perelman School of Medicine. They have been awarded $4 million over the next five years to use gene therapy to treat inherited forms of blindness, which can be caused by mutations in any of hundreds of different genes. The researchers plan to develop a small number of therapeutics that could restore vision to millions of patients who are blind due to a diverse set of retinal disorders. They propose re-sensitizing the blind eye by delivering light-sensitive molecules to the remaining retinal cells. This "optogenetic therapy" approach takes advantage of circuitry between the retina and the brain that remains intact in many individuals long after they have become blind. Preclinical studies in blind animals have demonstrated that this strategy is effective. This study aims ultimately to test the safety and efficacy of this approach in blind patients in the clinic. The results from this project could lead to a significant improvement in the quality of
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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