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[January 23, 2012]                                                  

SUNY Downstate Receives Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB):
Campus Eye Research Grows to More Than $6 Million in Five Years


Capping SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s growth into a major center for eye research, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has awarded SUNY Downstate a four-year challenge grant of $220,000 to spur the development of advanced research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of blinding diseases. Douglas R. Lazzaro, MD, professor and chair of ophthalmology, is the principal investigator. RPB is the world’s leading voluntary organization supporting eye research.

“This award from RPB is a major milestone in the development of an ophthalmology research nucleus at SUNY Downstate,” said Dr. Lazzaro. SUNY Downstate is now one of 52 institutions receiving this recognition from RPB, which, since its founding in 1960, has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to medical institutions throughout the United States. In the last five years, Downstate has attracted $6.2 million in eye research funding from various sources.

Dr. Lazzaro's team includes William J. Brunken, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and cell biology and director of ophthalmic research, who is studying the role of the extracellular matrix in retinal development and disease; and John Danias, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and cell biology, who is elucidating the molecular basis of glaucoma and evaluating potential new treatment strategies.

In addition, another member of the team, Brahim Chaqour, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and ophthalmology at Downstate, has been awarded a National Eye Institute grant for research on neovascularization in the retina. Jacob Aranda, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics and ophthalmology and director of neonatology, was awarded a major grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to establish a pediatric pharmacology center focused on research to prevent retinopathy of prematurity.   

Dr. Lazzaro and Dr. Brunken have also received an Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) fellowship grant for development of a posterior corneal prosthesis, in collaboration with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany. Dr. Lazzaro noted, “That SUNY Downstate has gone from virtually zero funding in eye research to more than six million in five years is a tribute to the dedication of the entire eye team here at Downstate.”

SUNY Downstate’s eye research includes projects within the SUNY Eye Institute and SUNY REACH, both collaborative efforts involving the four SUNY academic medical centers and the College of Optometry. Last year, SUNY REACH received $4.3 million for two NIH grants, both of whose lead investigators are based at Downstate. For information on RPB, RPB-funded research, eye disorders, and the RPB Grants Program, please visit www.rpbusa.org.   

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SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.

SUNY Downstate ranks ninth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools.  More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.

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