Challenge Seeks Idea to Advance Vision Research

The National Eye Institute is offering $3,000 awards and will have winners present their ideas in February 2013 at a Washington, D.C. meeting.

The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is offering $3,000 awards to as many as 20 contestants who submit the most compelling one-page ideas to advance vision science. The submission deadline for the Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation is Nov. 12, 2012. Winning contestants will be invited to present, discuss, and refine their ideas at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24-26, 2013, in Washington D.C.

"The Audacious Goals Challenge is a new tool in NEI strategic planning that aims to gather ideas from across the scientific spectrum to forge new approaches to persistent challenges in vision research," said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, MD, Ph.D. "Whether basic, translational, or clinical, a goal is audacious if it fundamentally changes research or vision care by closing critical knowledge gaps, opening developmental bottlenecks, or providing key elements to translate scientific discoveries into clinical applications."

NIE said the past decade, "beginning with the sequencing of the human genome, has yielded unprecedented gains in knowledge and tools to conduct research," including a 2005 breakthough where vision researchers used tools from the Human Genome Project to identify genetic factors for age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of legal blindness among older Americans. In 2011, researchers created an eyeball using mouse embryonic stem cells.

"Opportunities for scientific progress have never been greater, making strategic planning more critical," said Sieving. "By casting the widest net possible, the Audacious Goals Challenge will enhance our strategic planning with perspectives from people who have not traditionally been a part of the NEI planning process. Output from the challenge will help set priorities and coordinate research efforts."

The Audacious Goals Challenge seeks ideas that support the NEI mission to conduct and support research and other programs aimed at reducing the burden of vision disorders and disease worldwide. NEI is encouraging submissions from the private, government, and non-profit sectors, including scientists, engineers, health care providers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and the general public.

Challenge contestants should consult Vision Research: Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities, NEI's most recent compilation of panel reports that describes progress, current needs, and opportunities in six program areas: retinal diseases; corneal diseases; lens and cataract; glaucoma and optic neuropathies; strabismus, amblyopia, and visual processing; and low vision and blindness rehabilitation.

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