For his research efforts to better understand the molecular pathways that are responsible for axonal degeneration in glaucoma, Richard Libby, PhD, was awarded the 2017 Shaffer Prize for Research during Thursday night’s Glaucoma 360 annual Gala.
The project could result in the identification of novel molecular targets that would allow clinicians to slow or halt axonal degeneration in retinal ganglion cells and stop the progression of glaucoma.
Dr. Libby received the award for his study, “Understanding Axonal Degeneration Pathways in Glaucoma.” Dr. Libby is associate professor of ophthalmology, Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester Medical School, Rochester, NY.
Thomas Brunner, president and chief executive officer of the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), presented the award. The Shaffer Prize is presented annually by GRF to a researcher whose project best exemplifies the pursuit of innovative ideas in the quest to better understand glaucoma.
“The likely major cause of glaucoma is injury to the axons in retinal ganglion cells,” Dr. Libby explained. “We know that axon injury has its own unique degeneration pathway, but we don’t know many of the molecules that are involved.
“What we have shown is that a particular molecule, SARM1, is part of the axonal degeneration cascade in retinal ganglion cells,” he added. “This is a first step in understanding the axonal degeneration pathway. Once we understand the pathway, we can design a drug that stops axonal degeneration early in the process and, we hope, prevent the progression of glaucoma.”