Impact of GRF Shaffer Grants: Funding Important Research Discoveries

Research outcomes from past Shaffer Grant recipients demonstrate the impact of this funding in catalyzing the growth, sustainability, and productivity of glaucoma research laboratories across the US.

Glaucoma Research Foundation’s one-year Shaffer Grants place an emphasis on projects that explore new ideas in the realm of glaucoma research.

Consistent with this goal, 93% of surveyed Shaffer Grant recipients said that the Shaffer Grant helped them pursue an innovative idea that would otherwise not have been pursued.

Research outcomes of past Shaffer Grant recipients from 2009 to 2016 demonstrate the large impact of this funding in catalyzing the growth, sustainability, and productivity of glaucoma research laboratories across the US.

Below, we have compiled a brief summary of important research outcomes funded by the Shaffer Grants, among many others:

  • Discovery of the important interactions between the pressure in the eyes and in the brain, and how they affect the microstructure and mechanics of the optic nerve head.
    (Matthew A. Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh)
  • Knowledge of a link between cell death (caused by optic nerve damage) and the activation of the glial neuroinflammatory response that plays a role in progressive retinal degeneration in glaucoma.
    (Robert Nickells, PhD, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Awareness that erythropoietin can slow glaucoma progression, preserving vision, even when given after the onset of disease features such as elevated intraocular pressure. Also, sustained, intraocular delivery is likely to be the most effective and safest route of administration for patients.
    (Tonia S. Rex, PhD, Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center)
  • Discovery of one of the two major pathways of the retina (ON versus OFF) is more resilient to elevated intraocular pressure. This has triggered interest in elucidating the cellular basis for why some ganglion cells die before others, as well as encourage interest in designing new visual tests for early detection of glaucoma.
    (Rachel Wong, PhD, Professor and Chair, University of Washington)
  • Proof that retinal astrocytes play an important role in pressure-initiated vascular responses, which may lead to new therapeutic target in future.
    (Lin Wang, MD, PhD, Associate Scientist, Legacy Research Institute)
  • Knowledge that a Grp94 inhibitor (collaboration with Brian Blagg, Notre Dame, and John Koren, USF) works to ameliorate intraocular pressure elevation and other glaucoma indicators in the myocilin glaucoma model, which brings us close to a new therapy for myocilin-associated (and possibly other) types of glaucoma.
    (Raquel Lieberman, PhD, Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology)

A qualitative assessment of these discoveries and associated scientific publications provides robust evidence that the Shaffer Grant program is catalyzing innovative glaucoma research. We are hopeful that these research findings will further our understanding of glaucoma and progress toward a cure.


Posted on September 1, 2018; Reviewed on March 17, 2022