News Release

Hamilton Eye Institute receives $300,000 RPB Challenge Grant

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Dr. Penny Asbell

image: The Hamilton Eye Institute, led by Dr. Penny Asbell, has been awarded a $300,000 RPB Challenge Grant by Research to Prevent Blindness to continue vision research initiatives conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology. view more 

Credit: Greg Campbell

Memphis, Tenn. (January 4, 2021) - The Hamilton Eye Institute (HEI) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has been awarded an RPB Challenge Grant by Research to Prevent Blindness to continue vision research initiatives conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology at UTHSC. The $300,00 grant will be distributed over four years.

HEI holds one of three RPB Challenge Grants nationwide. Other Challenge Grant recipients include the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois.

RPB Challenge Grants encourage growth for emerging eye research programs and recently appointed department chairs. The competitive grants are designed to enhance a department's environment and capability to conduct vision research, facilitate collaborative studies of the visual system, and attract researchers to the department. Upon the grant's expiration, chairs will then be invited to apply for an unrestricted RPB grant.

The RPB Challenge Grant will allow HEI to continue to serve the Memphis community by discovering new treatments to preserve vision. "HEI is honored and delighted to receive this grant," said Penny A. Asbell, MD, FACS, MBA, FARVO, Barrett G. Haik Endowed Professor and Chair for Ophthalmology in the UTHSC College of Medicine and director of the Hamilton Eye Institute. "It will give us the fuel to move our vision research forward by allowing for the expansion of research faculty, innovative pilot studies, and new equipment for our research efforts."

Dr. Asbell joined UTHSC in 2018. Under her leadership, HEI has seen the further development of a collaborative, research-based team-approach to achieving the institute's stated purpose of "improving vision and empowering lives."

Additionally, HEI has added four clinical faculty members and four research faculty members. There are plans to bring in additional clinical faculty members, including clinician scientists, as well as additional basic and translational research faculty members over the next four years to increase the institute's research presence in its core interest areas of neurodegenerative diseases, such as glaucoma; ocular infections, and biomarkers; patient-based research, including clinical trials; translational research; and the use of artificial intelligence. Overall, HEI has garnered more than $15 million in research funding and published more than 260 papers in the last four years.

"Collaborating as a team with both research and clinical experts at HEI, within UTHSC, and across the globe, our research will lead to improving our understanding of ocular disease mechanisms and hasten the development of novel therapies and devices that preserve vision," Dr. Asbell said.


As Tennessee's only public, statewide, academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health through education, research, clinical care, and public service, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region. The main campus in Memphis includes six colleges: Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains medicine, pharmacy, and/or health professions students, as well as medical residents and fellows, at major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. For more information, visit Find us on Facebook:, on Twitter: and on Instagram:

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