CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Sept. 1, 1999
UI joins global research effort to study age-related
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa Health Care
researchers have joined a $6 million collaborative research effort to identify
the biological causes and potential treatments for age-related macular degeneration
(AMD) and other retinal degenerations. The UI researchers will collaborate
with CIBA Vision, which is the Atlanta-based eye care unit of Novartis AG,
and the eye clinic at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France.
AMD is a degenerative condition of the macula, the
part of the back of the eye that normally provides clear, central vision.
AMD affects more than 13 million adults in the United States and is the leading
cause of blindness in the developed world. There is currently no known cause
or cure for the disease.
"The goals of this strong collaboration between academia
and industry are to identify key pathways and genes involved in how AMD develops
and to devise strategies for diagnosing, delaying and/or preventing the progression
of this devastating disease," said Gregory S. Hageman, Ph.D., UI professor
of ophthalmology and visual sciences.
The collaborative research effort also gives CIBA
Vision the opportunity to license UI patents owned by the UI Research Foundation,
including intellectual property developed prior to or during the collaboration.
Such licensing could result in additional revenue for the UI.
"Macular degeneration is an incredibly complex condition
that devastates the quality of life for millions of people at a time when
they most deserve to enjoy their lives," said Hageman, lead investigator and
program director of the collaborative effort. "By combining the best efforts
and expertise of individuals at the UI, CIBA Vision, Novartis and the Université
Louis Pasteur, we can progress more rapidly toward understanding the mechanisms
that cause the disease."
Over the past two decades, UI researchers have helped
develop laser treatments for age-related macular degeneration and identified
several genes and more than 100 mutations related to different types of the
disease. UI research of AMD is now carried out at the university's Center
for Macular Degeneration, established in 1997 as the first multidisciplinary
center of its kind nationwide. "Our research team is incredibly dedicated
to understanding AMD," Hageman said. Edwin M. Stone, M.D., Ph.D., professor
of ophthalmology and visual sciences, is scientific director of the center,
and Thomas A. Weingeist, M.D., Ph.D., professor and head of the department,
is executive director.
"The University of Iowa's Center for Macular Degeneration
is one of the world's leading AMD research organizations, with a unique combination
of resources, knowledge and talent," said Glen Bradley, CIBA Vision CEO. "We
look forward to this unprecedented partnership, combining innovative global
academic research and industry support toward identifying causes, cures and
treatments for AMD."
He added, "The collaboration complements our current
research and development efforts and significantly strengthens our commitment
to improve, protect and preserve the vision of people around the world."
The collaborative project combines the intellectual
and clinical resources within the universities with the expertise of Novartis
and CIBA Vision in drug identification and development. CIBA Vision is a global
leader in the research, development and manufacturing of optical and ophthalmic
products and services, including contact lenses, lens care products and ophthalmic
pharmaceuticals. For more information about CIBA Vision, visit its web site
For more information about the UI Center for Macular
Degeneration, call (319) 356-2852 or visit on-line at www.ophth.uiowa.edu/CMD/Default.html.
[Editor's note: Professor Gregory S. Hageman will be available
to talk with reporters after 3 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 1.]