The NEI’s Role in Innovation

The NEI’s Role in Innovation
The National Eye Institute (NEI) spends $675 million annually, mostly on basic science and discovery research.  In addition, said Matthew J. McMahon, PhD, Director of the agency’s Office of Translational Research, “We have a clear mandate to help translate these discoveries into clinical medicine and public health improvements.” He points to the agency’s role in fostering the development of ocular coherence tomography, micro-needle drug delivery, and adaptive optics technologies, for example.

NEI funds researchers, companies, and institutions through non-dilutive grants—either large translational research grants or small business innovation grants—that allow for all intellectual property to be retained by the grant recipients.  Current grants are funding such diverse projects as small molecule-photoswitch research, gene therapy approaches, micro-RNA for sustained anti-VEGF delivery, and the quest for novel new compounds to modulate cannabinoids for glaucoma therapy. Regenerative medicine, optogenetics, and genome editing tools are among the agency’s priorities for upcoming grants.

Speaking at OIS@AAO, McMahon also noted that NEI invests significant resources to fund clinical trials and training for clinician scientists. “That is critical to ensure we have the talent to move innovation forward and combine high quality scientific research with the clinical application that is necessary to develop new technologies,” he said.

For more information, visit www.nei.nih.gov/translational.

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