Seven members of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) were named today as recipients of the 2014 António Champalimaud Vision Award, the highest distinction in ophthalmology and visual science, for their pioneering work to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, the most important causes of blindness in high and middle income countries. The prize is worth €1 million (U.S. $1.3 million; greater than the Nobel Prize award).
The impact of the 2014 Champalimaud Laureates' work is significant. According to the National Eye Institute, 2.1 million people in the U.S. have AMD; as the population ages, the number of cases is expected to increase to 3.7 million by 2030.
With the introduction of treatment using injections of vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors, known as anti-VEGF, in the past decade, physicians are able to successfully halt vision loss caused by both wet and dry AMD, and diabetic retinopathy. The groundbreaking treatment has preserved quality of life and independence for millions of older adults worldwide. The researchers will use the funds from the award to further their research efforts to cure blindness.
His Excellency Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, president of Portugal, announced the recipients at a ceremony in Lisbon:
- Napoleone Ferrara, MD, of University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center;
- Joan Whitten Miller, MD,FARVO, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
- Evangelos S. Gragoudas, MD, FARVO, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
- Patricia A. D'Amore, PhD, MBA, FARVO, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary;
- Anthony P. Adamis, MD, FARVO, of Genentech/Roche, who is also affiliated with Harvard Medical School;
- George L. King, MD, FARVO, of Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School; and
- Lloyd Paul Aiello, MD, PhD, FARVO, of the Beetham Eye Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
The laureates worked in parallel and in collaboration to identify vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as the major trigger for angiogenesis in the eye. Angiogenesis, or blood vessel growth, underlies the pathology of various blinding retinal disorders, including AMD and diabetic retinopathy. Abnormal vascular growth ―a process called neovascularization ― above or below the retina allows fluid to leak into the central retina, causing vision loss.
The researchers demonstrated that blocking VEGF could suppress ocular angiogenesis. This biomedical breakthrough led to a new class of ophthalmic anti-VEGF drugs, which first became available in the U.S. in December 2004
The Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders. Recipients of the Champalimaud Vision Award deliver the ARVO/Champalimaud Award Lecture at the ARVO Annual Meeting every May.
The António Champalimaud Vision Award, established by the Champalimaud Foundation in 2006, honors outstanding contributions to the preservation and understanding of sight. In even-numbered years, the award is given for vision research, and in alternate years it recognizes efforts to alleviate visual problems in developing countries or through humanitarian endeavors.
Award recipients are selected by an international jury panel that includes two Nobel Laureates and other prominent figures. The Champalimaud Vision Award is often referred to as the "Nobel Prize for Vision" as its purse is among the world's largest scientific and humanitarian prizes.