New Sight-Saving Research Funded

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has committed $1.3 million to the work of five exceptional scientists over the next three years. With the addition of these new projects, donation to the Foundation Fighting Blindness will support more than $2 million of new Canadian research this year.  Learn more about all of our funded research.

Each of the projects will aid our efforts to understand vision and retinal disease, or to preserve or restore vision to people living with retinal eye diseases. The projects were carefully reviewed and selected by our Scientific Advisory Board. These new projects include reinvestments in some research stars as well as commitments to new approaches.


Reprogramming the Eye’s Electrical Circuits

– Dr. Gautam Awatramani, University of Victoria

The blind retina is not necessarily a quiet place. When the light-sensing cells of the retina are destroyed by disease, the output nerve cells which connect the retina to the brain become spontaneously active despite being cut off from any sensory stimuli. The precise types of cells in the remnant retina which generate these random signals were identified by Dr. Gautam Awatramani with previous Foundation Fighting Blindness funding. Since these random signals are a potential impediment to sight-restoring therapies, in this project, Dr. Awatramani will work to understand how these spontaneous “noise signals” occur and devise new ways to curb them. Learn more about this project.


Making New Gene Discoveries in Childhood Blindness

– Dr. Robert Koenekoop, Montreal Children’s Hospital / McGill University Health Centre Research Institute

Young children are blinded by Leber congenital amaurosis, often before they begin school. This condition is caused by a damaged gene that the child inherits from both parents. Learning which gene is damaged, and how that damage affects the retina helps us understand and diagnosis blinding retinal disease. It provides clinicians and scientists essential information to develop treatments. Dr. Koenekoop is one of Canada’s leading gene hunters. With the support of Foundation Fighting Blindness donors, he has already helped identify several of the 18 genes known to be associated with Leber congenital amaurosis. With this three-year grant, he aims to finish the job, and identify all of the genes that can contribute to Leber congenital amaurosis. Learn more about this project.


Creating New Therapies for Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

– Dr. Bruno Larrivée, Université de Montréal

Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs because the blood vessels behind the retina begin to grow abnormally leaking blood and fluid. We are only beginning to understand the signals within the eye that prompt this disease. Currently therapies for wet AMD work by blocking natural growth factors that prompt blood vessels to grow.  Dr. Bruno Larrivée at the Université de Montréal will explore whether blocking another group of signals that prompt blood vessel growth. His project will also look at whether this therapy can be effectively combined with anti-VEGF treatments like Lucentis and Avastin. Learn more about this project.


Protecting the Light-Sensing Cells in Retinitis Pigmentosa

– Dr. Philippe Monnier, Toronto Western Hospital

Dr. Philippe Monnier studies what happens when nerve cells are injured, particularly cells in the optic nerve. Cells in the injured nerve receive protein signals that prompt the cell to die. If the cell’s outside surface is modified so that it ignores these signals, the cell is protected. In this study, Dr. Monnier will apply his knowledge to protect the light-sensing cells of the retina in mice with a type of retinitis pigmentosa. This is a new approach to retinal disease treatment that has potential for treating many different retinal diseases - if his testing can demonstrate that promise. Learn more about this project.


Using Nutrients to Stop Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

- Dr. Mike Sapieha, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna and other fatty fishes. People who eat a lot of these nutrients appear to be somewhat protected against developing age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Mike Sapieha and his team at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont in Montreal are studying whether high-dose supplements of these nutrients might also slow down the serious wet stage of AMD, which can quickly damage vision. His preliminary evidence suggests that a stronger, more stable, omega-3 fatty acid supplement might be a useful treatment for wet AMD. Learn more about this project.


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