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UCI's Gavin Herbert Eye Institute receives $3 million for retinal degeneration research

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 12, 2013 The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, which is part of UC Irvine Health, has been awarded a $3 million grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for fellowships and instruments that advance research to prevent blindness caused by such diseases as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

"We are grateful to the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for demonstrating confidence in the quality of scientific discovery taking place at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute," said Dr. Roger Steinert, professor and chair of ophthalmology and director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. "Researchers here share the late Dr. Beckman's commitment to excellence and will use this grant to strategically support our bold goal of eradicating blindness by 2020."

The Beckman Foundation grant includes $1 million for state-of-the-art instruments designed to perform promising medical procedures such as stem cell transplantation for retinal degeneration.

Dr. Henry Klassen, associate professor of ophthalmology, and his Gavin Herbert Eye Institute team have shown that stem cells can repair damaged retinal cells in retinitis pigmentosa, the most common form of inherited retinal degeneration. If proven effective in humans, this treatment could change what it means to be diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, a disease that affects the vision of 1 in 27 Americans.

The other $2 million from the Beckman Foundation grant establishes fellowships for young researchers to contribute to stem cell studies and other exciting new avenues of eye research. Working alongside some of the nation's leading ophthalmologists, these fellows will participate in the discovery process and learn the latest clinical procedures in vision care.

An earlier grant from the Beckman Foundation provided $2 million to support construction of a new center for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute on the UC Irvine campus. The 70,000-square-foot medical facility, which is slated to open for patients in September, includes design features recommended by the Braille Institute that will make it easier for low-vision patients to navigate within the building. The first-floor clinical center will be named the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Center for Vision Care in honor of the late inventor and his wife. The building, which is funded entirely through local private philanthropy, will be Orange County's first university eye center.

Contact: Nancy Everhart
University of California - Irvine

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