Second CFC team gears up for ambitious goal

February 3, 2012

Encouraged by the successes of the first Catalyst for a Cure research team, the Glaucoma Research Foundation is now funding a second team of scientists charged with identifying specific and sensitive biomarkers that can improve the diagnosis and management of glaucoma. At Catalyst for a Cure: The Annual Benefit on Thursday evening, principal investigators in the group expressed their excitement about working in the innovative, collaborative research model and the opportunity to apply the talents and expertise of their individual laboratories to achieve their clinically important goal.

San Francisco-Encouraged by the successes of the first Catalyst for a Cure (CFC) research team, the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) is now funding a second team of scientists charged with identifying specific and sensitive biomarkers that can improve the diagnosis and management of glaucoma.

At Catalyst for a Cure: The Annual Benefit on Thursday evening, principal investigators in the group expressed their excitement about working in the innovative, collaborative research model and the opportunity to apply the talents and expertise of their individual laboratories to achieve their clinically important goal.

Introducing the team, Thomas Brunner, GRF president and chief executive officer, noted that ophthalmologists are looking for ways to diagnose glaucoma at a much earlier stage and to determine how rapidly it is progressing so that they will be able to adjust the aggressiveness of their treatment approach properly.

“The biomarker initiative is all about giving the glaucoma specialist and the general ophthalmologist more options to try to preserve vision in patients with glaucoma,” Brunner said. “Our goal is that the team will develop some modalities for clinical validation within 3 to 5 years.”

Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, is one of the four principal investigators. He articulated his enthusiasm about the CFC project and the potential for success.

“We have entered into an era of improved molecular understanding of physics and optics that gives us an opportunity to think about new and better ways to detect disease,” Dr. Goldberg said.

Andrew Huberman, PhD, Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, was optimistic about future developments based on recent progress.

“There are things that are possible today and that will be coming in the next few years that were simply unimaginable just 5 or 10 years ago,” he said.

Alfredo Dubra, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and biophysics, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, will be bringing his knowledge of ophthalmic adaptive optics to the group.

"This technology was originally developed to study the stars," he said. "Subsequently, and somewhat surprisingly, it was found that adaptive optics could be applied to the eye to visualize microscopic structure of the living retina non-invasively.

"We will seek to apply its unprecedented image resolution to improve on the sensitivity of current diagnostic methods, with the goal of detecting changes in the retinal nerve fiber layer, retinal ganglion cells, and optic disc before vision loss occurs," he added. "Increased diagnostic sensitivity would also allow improved evaluation of the efficacy of current therapies and accelerate testing of new ones. In addition, by combining adaptive optics with powerful non-invasive spectroscopic techniques, we will aim to detect changes in retinal chemistry that precede irreversible structural damage."

Vivek J. Srinivasan, PhD, instructor, Department of Radiology, and faculty, Athinoula Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Harvard Medical School, Boston, will be contributing his combined expertise in optical coherence tomography and brain imaging with his research experience in neurodegenerative diseases to help the CFC researchers achieve their charge.

“I am looking forward to applying my knowledge to help solve the problem of finding clinically useful biomarkers in glaucoma,” he said.

The four principal investigators for the second CFC team came together for the first time in November 2011, and will be meeting in San Francisco with their advisors on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.

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