Dr. Pamela Martin
NEI STTR award for promising therapy for diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the US. Dr. Pamela Martin and Dr. Ravirahsinh Jadeja have been awarded a grant from the National Eye Institute to investigate HBI-002, a novel oral carbon monoxide compound, as a treatment for diabetic retinopathy. Drs. Martin and Jadeja are working collaboratively with Dr. Edward Gomperts of Hillhurst Biopharmaceuticals to study the potential benefit of low dosage carbon monoxide in models of diabetic retinopathy, which is a key step toward clinical trials. She and her colleagues have shown that low dosage carbon monoxide has cytoprotective properties. Their proposal overcomes some of the barriers associated with carbon monoxide delivery as a therapeutic strategy. It also seeks to determine whether the novel compound can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation associated with diabetic retinopathy. Congratulations Dr. Martin and colleagues!
Dr. Steven Brooks
Steven Brooks has joined the Medical College of Georgia as the new chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and holds the William S. Hagler endowed chair in Ophthalmology. Dr. Brooks will serve as the clinical co-director of the VDI. Dr. Brooks joins MCG from Columbia University where he held the Anne S. Cohen Professorship of Pediatric Ophthalmology and also served as the medical director of Jonas Children’s Vision Care, an integrated effort between Columbia University Medical Center and Jonas Philanthropies to prevent and treat blindness and other serious eye disorders in children. Dr. Brooks is an expert in strabismus and has a robust research program in retinopathy of prematurity, pediatric glaucoma and ocular surgical therapies for strabismus. Dr. Brooks is a member of the Research Committee of the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and serves on the academy’s journal. He is a member of the American Board of Ophthalmology’s Exam Development Committee and is part of the Scientific Review Committee for Fight for Sight, Inc. Dr. Brooks is an honored educator and is an associate examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Brooks as the clinical co-director of the VDI!
(from left) Drs. Xingjun Fan, Sylvia Smith and Yutao Liu
$3 million National Eye Institute grant supports growth of vision research at MCG, AU
A $3 million National Eye Institute grant is enabling the critical infrastructure necessary to grow research initiatives in major vision-robbing conditions at the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University.
The NEI center core grant, or P30 grant, comes at a time of critical development for the James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute at Augusta University, and is key to the sustainability of future growth, says Dr. Sylvia Smith, chair of the MCG Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy and director of the Culver VDI. Smith, a NEI-funded retinal cell biologist, is principal investigator on the new P30 grant.
Dr. Pamela Martin
Dr. Pamela Martin’s laboratory has great news of a clinically-translational study that is underway. She has received an award from Novartis to sponsor a study: "Therapeutic potential of anti-P-selectin antibody in improving sickle cell retinopathy in mice".
Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, has developed and obtained FDA approval for a new drug therapy crizanlizumab (Adakveo) to treat vaso-occlusive (pain) crises in patients with sickle cell disease. They are now interested in determining whether the drug can prevent or reduce the frequency of other sickle cell-related complications. Dr. Martin’s lab has been selected to evaluate complications associated with retina. Congrats Dr. Martin!!
Dr. Jing Wang
Dr. Jing Wang, Assistant Research Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Sylvia Smith, has been notified by Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. of their intent to support her research proposal: “Sigma 1 Receptor: a novel therapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity.” ROP is a blinding disease of early childhood that damages the vasculature and neurons of the retina. Thanks to collaboration and guidance from Dr. Ruth Caldwell, Dr. Wang established a model of ROP in the lab. For her grant proposal Dr. Wang will be testing whether activation of a unique protein, Sigma 1 Receptor, can rescue the vascular disruption and loss of retinal neurons that characterize this devastating disease. Her preliminary data are quite promising and with this new grant support she will be able to continue these important studies.
Dr. Eduardo C. Alfonso
On March 5th, 2020 the Culver VDI held its 12th annual retreat at the Ballroom on the Summerville Campus of Augusta University. Members of senior leadership including Dr. Gretchen Caughman, Provost; Dr. David Hess, Dean of the Medical College of Georgia and Dr. Michael Diamond, Senior VP for research delivered remarks and offered great praise to the VDI members for their accomplishments. Our Keith Green Lecture was presented by Dr. Eduardo C. Alfonso, MD, Chair of Ophthalmology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Alfonso is Director of the Bascom palmer Eye Institute and the Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology. His lecture was entitled “Fungal Keratitis Update.” The event was attended by more than 75 resaerchers, clinicians, trainees and staff members. Dr. Jingwen Cai was the leader of this year’s retreat.
DR. YUTAO LIU
CONGRATULATIONS TO DR. YUTAO LIU!
Dr. David Hess acknowledged Dr. Yutao Liu's fantastic accomplishment in the Medical College of Georgia Deans Diary on June 14, 2019. Dr. Liu brings a $2.1 million dollar NIH grant to fight keratoconus.
Dr. Liu, vision scientist and human geneticist in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, just received a $2.1 million grant from the National Eye Institute to better understand what the disease and the gene mutations associated with it do to the cornea, which lets most of the light into our eyes so we can ultimately see. Like most of you, his long-term goals include finding better ways to treat or even prevent keratoconus and avoid results like extreme nearsightedness and double vision. He has even developed the first keratoconus mouse model to enable these studies that will also examine human corneal tissue. Like Steph Curry, Dr. Liu has great teammates like cornea specialist Dr. Amy Estes and collaborators at Duke University. Congratulations and thanks Dr. Liu and team – David Hess.
Jingwen Cai & Dr. Yutao Liu
ARVO ANNUAL MEETING
Every year for the past eight years, the Richards family has provided awards to Augusta University trainees to present their research at the world’s preeminent eye conference, the ARVO annual meeting.
The 2019 award recipients were: • Shannon Barwick (pre-doctoral) • Dr. Luke Chang (post-doctoral) • Dr. Zhong Chen (post-doctoral). Congratulations to these individuals. As ARVO 2020 was cancelled owing to COVID-19, we did not have travel awards for this year.
Drs. Mitchell Watsky & Wendy Bollag
Dr. Abdelrahman Fouda
Dr. Abdelrahman Fouda was notified that his K99 award entitled “Role of Arginase 1 in Retinal Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury” will be supported by the NIH/NEI effective Sept. 1, 2019.
Dr. Kevin Halenda
Dr. Jonathan Shader
AURI Research Awards
It is our distinct honor to announce that two of our Culver VDI members were recognized at the AURI research awards ceremony held October 18, 2019! Dr. Ruth B. Caldwell and Dr. William Caldwell were presented the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their outstanding contributions to research at our university for more than 30 years. They were commended for their sustained contributions to the fields of arginase biology as well as retinal vascular biology.
This, in itself is notable, but perhaps their greatest legacy lies in their outstanding mentorship of so many scientists! These individuals have gone on to establish their own successful laboratories.
Dr. Barbara Mysona
Dr. Wendy Bollag
American Heart Association
Dr. Luke Chang
Dr. Ming Zhang
Dr. Mohamed Al-Shabrawey
Dr. Mohamed Al-Shabrawey, Professor of oral biology and diagnostic sciences, received the 2019 Dental College of Georgia Outstanding Faculty Award at the Augusta University Spring Faculty Assembly, along with faculty honorees from the other colleges. He was elected by his peers in a competitive voting process, with 80% of faculty participating.
Mariam Lofty Khaled
Congratulations also go to Ph.D. candidate Soumya Navneet, from the laboratory of Dr. Sylvia Smith, for successfully defending her thesis, “Neuron-glia interaction and role of NRF2 in hyperhomocysteinemic retina.” These two students graduated in May 2019.