International Retinal Research Foundation

Age-related macular



    Three Awards are available at $35,000 each for one year. Submission Deadline is March 1, 2019.

    Questions or request for information should be forwarded to Sandra Blackwood either by phone or email.




    Bioinformatics, “Quantifying Spatial Relationships from Whole Retinal Images,” Brian E. Ruttenberg, Gabriel Luna, Geoffrey P. Lewis, Steven K. Fisher, and Ambuj K. Singh, Neuroscience

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    The International Retinal Research Foundation, Inc.

    1720 University Boulevard

    Birmingham, Alabama 35233

    Attn: Sandra Blackwood, MPA

    Executive Director

    Phone: 205-325-8103

    Fax: 205-325-8394

    Or by email:

Lasker/IRRF Initiative News

The IRRF will not be accepting applications for regular grants in 2018.  The next submission date is May 1, 2019.


RPB/IRRF Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)                        (SCROLL DOWN )

In 2014, the International Retinal Research Foundation (IRRF) accepted an invitation by Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) to participate in a funding collaboration that would combine our collective resources to that of an anonymous donor and a generous bequest received from the Sybil Harrington Estate to RPB.  It was requested that the funds be used for research that focused on stem cell research and AMD. The partnership made possible three grants at $250,000 over four years.

Realizing that there is an ongoing need for this type of funding partnership, RPB and IRRF came together again in 2017 to launch a second award, the RPB/IRRF Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for Age-Related Macular Degeneration, which provides funds to researchers who are working on novel approaches to AMD.   Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined, and at present is considered an incurable eye disease. The specific factors that cause macular degeneration are not conclusively known, and research into this little understood disease is limited by insufficient funding.  The RPB/IRRF Catalyst Awards are meant to act as seed money to high-risk/high-gain vision science research, which is innovative, cutting-edge and demonstrates out-of-the box thinking.  Research related to both dry and wet forms of AMD are supported by this award.

The $300,000 grant is payable for up to 3 years upon approval of a 14-month substantive progress report, with further funding contingent upon satisfactory progress as judged by a well- respected peer reviewer.

In December 2017, after a rigorous scientific review process rooted in RPB review committees, two Catalyst Award winners were named:

(1) Dr. Catherine Bowes Rickman of Duke University School of Medicine, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Associate Professor in Cell Biology, whose research interest is the pathobiology of age-related macular degeneration.  Her current studies involve the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of age-related macular degeneration, with a focus on development and studies of animal models of AMD, AMD pathogenesis and pre-clinical studies of novel therapies for AMD.  Dr. Bowes Rickman has a strong track record of productive research in this field.  For the Catalyst Award, she proposes to use unique and relevant models of chronic, dry AMD to test three therapeutic approaches that will shape strategies for targeting the complement pathway versus a combined therapeutic approach targeting both pathways.  It is felt this project could have major implications in guiding future human clinical trials in this area.

(2) Debasish Sinha, PhD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is Professor of Ophthalmology and the recipient of a BrightFocus grant in 2016.  Dr. Sinha also has an adjunct faculty appointment at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins.  Dr. Sinha’s Catalyst Award proposal aims to develop a treatment for early, dry AMD that works by rejuvenating impaired lysosomal function.  (Lysosomes act as the waste disposal system of the cell by digesting unwanted materials.)  The committee felt this project is important and innovative because it attempts to target mechanisms that may underlie early stages of AMD – a critical unmet need.  Dr. Sinha has exceptional experience in inflammation and, in particular, lysosomal biology, as well as access to high-level collaborators in this area.

Collaboration with Research to Prevent Blindness has been a very positive experience and the joining of our respective resources has allowed us to extend a significant award, and we feel confident that worthy recipients have been selected.  Both IRRF and RPB are looking forward to seeing what these innovative individuals are able to accomplish with the grant money, which we hope will lead to a significant advance in AMD research.  The importance of these awards cannot be overstated, since as already stated, there is currently no known cure for this disease.  It is hoped this research will further our understanding of AMD and will lead to more options for treatment.

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The International Retinal Research Foundation, Inc. has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as tax exempt

from federal tax under section 509(A) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501(c)(3).


For additional information or other inquiries, please write to:

The International Retinal Research Foundation, Inc.

1720 University Boulevard

Birmingham, Alabama 35233

Attn: Sandra Blackwood, MPA, Executive Director

Phone: 205-325-8103

Fax: 205-325-8394