Basic science: Bedrock of progress

Basic science


There is an excellent editorial in the 25 March 2016 edition of Science Magazine from Francis Collins et. al. re-stating the NIH position on support for basic science.  This is important for anyone applying to the NIH for grants as well as those reviewing NIH grants as the central question should be: “How much will the proposed work advance understanding and progress in the field?”.

Research Funding From Private Institutions/Foundations

Andrew Jackson

We’ve talked about the research funding crisis before here on Webvision with linked editorials, and discussions of the 2015 funding environment. Increasingly, private foundations are becoming more critical to the survival of laboratories given the dramatic reduction in federal funding of research.  Typically, these kinds of funding resources are not enough to completely run a lab, but they help smooth out the bumps, keeping scientists in the game.

We have compiled for you a list of non-federal vision research funding resources for you to explore.  I wish my colleagues good luck and good science.


Non-Federal Research Funding Resources


Sponsor                                                             Website

Alliance for Vision Research
American Federation for Medical Research
American Diabetes Association
American Federation for Aging Research
American Health Assistance Foundation
American Medical Assn. Fdn.
American Physiological Society
Boehringer Ingelheim
Brookdale Foundation
Dana Foundation
Donald W. Reynolds Foundation
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Dreyfus Foundation
Ellison Foundation
Eye Bank Association of America
Fight for Sight
Foresight Ventures
Glaucoma Foundation
Glaucoma Research Foundation Shaffer Fund
Glaucoma Research Foundation
Heed Ophthalmic Foundation
Helen Hay Whitney
Hope for Vision
Human Frontier Science Program
International Retina Research Foundation (IRRF)
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International
Knights Templar Eye Foundation
Life Sciences Research Foundation
Lions Sight-first Diabetic Retinopathy Foundation
Midwest Eye Bank
Pew Scholars
Pfeiffer Research Grants
Pharma. Res. and Manufacturers of Amer. Fdn.
Prevent Blindness America
Rackham Faculty Grants and Fellowships
Research to Prevent Blindness
Retina International
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Searle Scholars
Sloan Research Fellowships
Society for Biomolecular Society
Thome Memorial Foundation
United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
Whitaker Foundation (Bioengineering)
Whitehall Foundation


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NIH/NEI Audacious Goals Brochure

Metabolomic Eye In NIH Audacious Goals 600

The NIH/NEI Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) brochure is being distributed to researchers as well as public and private funding agencies and advocacy groups for an effort to fund vision research and vision rescues to regenerate portions of the retina that are lost in disease.

From the brochure: “The AGI began with the Audacious Goals Challenge, a prize competition that challenged participants to imagine the greatest achievement for vision research during the next 10-15 years. The challenge attracted more than 450 innovative proposals from around the world. The NEI consolidated the proposals into six themes, which were further explored by leading experts at the Audacious Goals Development Meeting.

In consultation with the National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC), the NEI chose to pursue the goal of restoring vision through the regeneration of neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system, specifically targeting the photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells.”

You can download the full resolution brochure in pdf format here.

Proposed NIH And NEI 2015 Budget

2015 HHS budget proposal

The new 2015 Budget proposal released by Health and Human Services for the NIH has been finalized.  This is a proposal released by the White House as a suggestion to Congress on how to distribute federal funds related to research.  As we know, this relationship has been contentious to say the least coming at the expense of research funding which has more or less been on a constant slide for the past decade.  Real research dollars, inflation adjusted are down almost 25% from a decade ago.

In the 2015 budget, it has been proposed that an additional $211 million dollars be assigned to the NIH for a total of $30.4 billion.  As expected, translational research is funded at higher amounts increasing the disparity of basic science vs. translational work with the NIAID, NCATS, NIMH, NIDDK and NINDS receiving the majority of this additional $211 million.  Of relevance to the vision community, there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that NEI funding is proposed to increase by $1 million over the 2014 appropriation.  The bad news is that, assuming a 1.4% rate of inflation, this additional funding does not keep up with inflation and we continue the decade long slide in research funding.

There may be other opportunities within the NIH budget for vision related research, not necessarily in the NEI portfolio including some of the $100 million devoted to the BRAIN initiative, though honestly… most of those dollars are already spoken for it seems.

There is some potential good news for pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students supported by NRSA funding mechanisms with a 2% increase in stipends proposed.

This is one of the most amazing times in biomedical research, especially in the vision community.  All the work I heard about at the 2014 ARVO meetings this week from investigators across the spectrum is inspiring and yet, we are facing so many frustrations with real shortfalls in research funding.

We, the science community and America at large, needs the partisan bickering to cease.  The President’s proposal in the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative requests up to an additional $970 million in funding to the NIH to fund an addition 650 NIH grants and an additional 1000 NSF grants which are badly needed to stem the loss of talent in the science communities.  Rebuilding this countries infrastructure includes our intellectual capabilities.  Myopic budget approval processes that do not take into account scientific progress at both the basic and applied levels of scientific inquiry and investigation will lead to a continued reduction in the competitiveness of this country in academic and commercial venues.


Foundation Fighting Blindness Announces $2.4 Million in Funding for Eight New Sight-Saving Research Projects


Congratulations to our colleagues mentioned in the following press release.  We are always enthused to hear about funding and commitments to research, particularly when federal funding of research through traditional means has been getting harder to obtain.  This is where funding from private foundations like Foundation Fighting Blindness come through.  It enables work to progress that otherwise would not happen and for those of us who are working so very hard to find cures for blindness or treatments to mitigate vision loss, this is invaluable.

Continue reading “Foundation Fighting Blindness Announces $2.4 Million in Funding for Eight New Sight-Saving Research Projects”

The Chi-Bin Chien Award

The Chi-Bin Chien Award has been established by the zebrafish research community and Genetics Society of America in memory of Dr. Chi-Bin Chien (1965–2011). Chi-Bin was Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah and served the international zebrafish community in numerous ways, including as Director of the Zebrafish Neural Development and Genetics Course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and organizer of the International Conference on Zebrafish Genetics and DevelopmentContinue reading “The Chi-Bin Chien Award”