Elks Children's Eye Clinic Building

With expansion to new building, OHSU Casey Eye Institute sets sights on curbing blindness

 Rendering of the new Elks Children's Eye Clinic building
Rendering of the Elks Children's Eye Clinic building.

Building on decades of innovation and collaboration, OHSU Casey Eye Institute is embracing a bold new goal –to eliminate blindness in Oregon and beyond. To help fulfill this vision, the institute is building a new facility where sight-saving programs can grow and thrive. Set to open in 2020, the new building will house research and patient care services for children's eye care, macular degeneration, ophthalmic genetics, imaging technology and more. 

Located next to Casey's existing facility on OHSU's Marquam Hill campus, the 60,000 square foot building will be named the Oregon Elks Children's Eye Clinic in honor of the eye institute's longstanding partnership with the Oregon State Elks. The fraternal organization has pledged $20 million toward construction of the new facility, which begins this summer. 

Bolstering this undertaking are two major gifts totaling $7.5 million from the late philanthropist John S. Wold and his family to help establish the Wold Family Macular Degeneration Center, which will also be part of the new facility. 

A hub for children's eye care 

The Elks Children's Eye Clinic will be the nation's first free-standing eye institute for pediatric patients –a world-class hub for innovative research, subspecialty patient care and leading-edge programs in gene therapy, pre-school vision screening and telemedicine for retinopathy of prematurity. "To effectively treat many childhood eye disorders, they must be discovered early and accurately diagnosed. The new clinic will enable us to provide timely care to far more children and accelerate the discovery of better treatments," said Daniel Karr, M.D., director of the Elks Children's Eye Clinic. 

Fighting macular degeneration 

The new Wold Family Macular Degeneration Center will further Casey's decades-long work studying macular degeneration's underlying causes and evaluating bench-to-bedside treatments, including gene and stem-cell therapies. It will also enable Casey to better meet the rising demand for treatment and support services, such as vision rehabilitation. 

"Because we now have better treatments for common eye diseases like macular degeneration, the demand for clinical services is burgeoning," said David J. Wilson, M.D., director of OHSU Casey Eye Institute and chair of the department of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "That demand is expected to escalate even more as the population in the U.S. and other developed countries grows older," he added, noting that "the risk of blindness from age-related eye disorders is enormous." 

The promise of gene therapy 

Casey's leading efforts in gene therapy offer great promise for people facing blindness from hereditary eye disorders. The new space will allow its ophthalmic genetics program to better accommodate the growing number of clinical trials and patients from around the world. "We are evaluating more gene therapy treatments than any other eye center in the world, and expect the volume of patients participating in these trials and treatments to triple in the next five years," said Mark Pennesi, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Casey's ophthalmic genetics division. The ophthalmic genetics program will work closely with the Oregon Elks Children's Eye Clinic in caring for youngsters with genetic eye disease. 

Spurring growth overall 

The new building will also free up space in Casey's existing facilities, paving the way for growth in other programs, such as cornea and glaucoma. The expanded space will enable these services to use advances in the delivery of eye care and new technologies. 

"This major expansion project is spurred by our mission to end avoidable vision loss, whether from childhood eye disease or common conditions that afflict adults. In this new space, specifically designed for a new era in ophthalmology, we will have the tools, technology and talent to detect eye disease earlier, diagnose it more accurately and provide the most effective treatments possible," said Dr. Wilson. 

Learn more about the Elks' partnership with Casey Eye Institute to fight childhood blindness