February 19, 2013
National Institutes of Health competition explores future advances in vision science
Winning submissions for the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) Audacious Goals challenge have been announced, and OHSU scientist Robert Duvoisin, Ph.D., was awarded for a forward-looking idea that could restore vision using opto-electronic stimulation.
The NEI, part of the National Institutes of Health, chose ten winning submissions from a pool of nearly 500 entries for the Audacious Goals challenge, a nationwide competition for compelling, one-page ideas to advance vision science. Entries were de-identified and reviewed by experts on the basis of relevance to the NEI mission and whether the idea is bold, daring, unconventional, or exceptionally innovative; broad in scope; and potentially attainable in about 10 years.
“The Audacious Goals initiative was born out of the NEI strategic planning process, however it is much more than a standard strategic planning exercise,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., NEI director. “We are envisioning the future. When we look back 10 to 12 years from now, what do we want to have accomplished? The Audacious Goals initiative will help propel us into that future.”
Dr. Duvoisin, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology and an adjunct faculty member at the Casey Eye Institute, focuses his research on understanding retinal function at a molecular level. His Audacious Goal submission outlined a method for restoring vision by making nerve cells in the eye sensitive to light so that images captured by a camera can be converted to nerve signals that are sent to the brain. This vision restoration treatment is not available yet, but could be within the next ten years, according to Dr. Duvoisin.
“Implanting a stimulation device in the eye to restore vision is similar to implanting a device in the ear to restore hearing,” said Dr. Duvoisin. “However, the eyes function in a more complex way than the ears, which is why this treatment for vision restoration is not available yet. We may already have the scientific capabilities to make this a viable treatment in the future, but it’s a matter of piecing those capabilities together in a workable way to restore vision.”
The NEI Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation is part of a government-wide effort to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges through the awarding of prize money, among other types of awards. The challenge sought 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. Each winner received a $3,000 prize plus travel expenses to attend the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, in late February 2013, at the Bolger Conference Center in Potomac, Md., outside Washington, D.C.
For more information, visit the Audacious Goals website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/challenge.
About the National Eye Institute (NEI)
The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.