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Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research, Inc. Launches Multi-Million Dollar, State-of-the-Art Research Institute that Will Advance the Study of Blinding Eye Diseases
Date:5/5/2009

TAMPA, Fla., May 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Tampa Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research, Inc. (LEITR) today announced plans to open a new 12,000-square-foot facility in Tampa, Florida. This state-of-the-art facility will offer high-volume, high-quality human ocular tissue for research, study, collaboration, and clinical advancements, as well as extensive space for on-site residence, sleeping quarters, and meetings/events.

This marks an expansion of the current 35,000 square-foot Tampa Eye Bank facility, already the world's largest eye bank. This new model -- a Research Institute built within an eye bank -- is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

For more than 30 years, LEITR has provided over 30,000 corneas for transplant and 50,000 eyes for research worldwide. LEITR recognized that research into blinding diseases had to be greatly expanded, particularly due to the exponential growth and incidence of macular degeneration and glaucoma. "The LEITR expansion means that, for the first time, diseased as well as healthy human eye tissue will be available to us for research," says Dr. Henry Edelhauser, Ferst Professor at Emory University Eye Center. "This availability of a full spectrum of human eye tissue will improve our understanding of the underlying events that lead to blindness. Even more importantly, what we learn will eventually have a tremendous, positive impact on quality of life for patients with blinding diseases."

Transforming Ocular Research

Key to the successful advancement of ocular tissue research is having the highest quality human tissue available. Over the years, LEITR recognized that time between tissue donor death and tissue recovery was essential. Current methods of providing tissue, particularly overnight shipping to facilities, has greatly affected the quality of that tissue. Now, researchers will have a repository of high-quality human ocular tissue on site at LEITR.

Racing Against Time

As the U.S. population ages, the prevalence of macular degeneration and glaucoma have affected millions of Americans. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual loss in the elderly and the condition profoundly affects their quality of life. Glaucoma, affecting upwards of 3 million Americans, contributes to over 120,000 new cases of blindness each year and is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans. LEITR's initial research platforms will explore the leading causes of these two blinding diseases, providing diseased or compromised eyes for advancing research in these disease areas.

LEITR is also forming a distinguished advisory board, consisting of thought leaders from top academic eye institutions around the country. Collaborative relationships with academic, government, and pharmaceutical industry research centers will be established to facilitate accelerated drug innovation, timely clinical trials, and a foundation for best research practices.

The LEITR Mission

"Our stated mission is to set new standards for ocular research that will improve visual outcomes and quality of life for those who are blind or visually impaired," says Jason K. Woody, Executive Director and CEO of LEITR. "We intend to be the new pioneers of ocular research."

About LEITR

LEITR is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to the recovery, evaluation, and distribution of eye tissue for transplantation, research, and education. The eye institute is one of the largest in the world. Since its inception, it has brought the "Gift of Sight" to over 20,000 men, women, and children worldwide. LEITR was founded by a group of Tampa Lions in 1973. Since the beginning, the eye institute has been guided by a board of directors comprised of Lions and prominent ophthalmic specialists and surgeons. For more information call Jason K. Woody at 1-813-289-1200, visit our Web site at www.lionseyeinstitute.org.


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SOURCE Lions Eye Institute
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