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New York, NY, December 4, 2012–Two esteemed scientists were honored today by JDRF for their pioneering work in developing a new treatment to reverse vision loss in diabetes patients with eye disease.
Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D., of Joslin Diabetes Center and Anthony P. Adamis, M.D., of Genentech, received the David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence in recognition of their discovery of the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in diabetic eye disease and studies eventually resulting in new clinical treatments for diabetic macular edema. Funding for their work came in part from JDRF and the National Institute of Health’s Special Diabetes Program (SDP).
“For more than twenty years, the only news we could tell a patient with diabetic macular edema was that laser surgery could reduce the risk of further vision loss by about 50% and that it did not generally improve vision,” said Dr. Aiello when he accepted the award. “Today, we can now tell patients that we can improve the edema for the majority of patients with this condition and furthermore, in over half of our patients, we can even reverse much of the vision loss they may have already suffered. The simple fact is that without funding from the SDP this treatment would probably not be available today.” Dr. Adamis was unable to attend the ceremony but expressed his gratitude to JDRF in a video message.
Diabetic eye disease can lead to the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the eye, or leakage of fluid from blood vessels, causing vision loss – a condition called diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema that affects as many as 40 percent of people with T1D. Nearly two decades ago, Drs. Adamis and Aiello separately concluded that the VEGF protein plays a key part in diabetic retinopathy, and they focused their research on creating VEGF-targeted therapy for the complication. Their work was instrumental in the development of the anti-VEGF drug ranibizumab, now marketed by Genentech under the brand name Lucentis. It was approved for use in Europe and Canada in 2011, and in the United States in August 2012. SDP funding contributed to the discovery that combining Lucentis and laser therapy could reverse vision loss in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
“We are honored to have supported the influential research of both Dr. Adamis and Dr. Aiello, and are pleased to formally recognize their contributions with this year’s Rumbough Award,” said Richard Insel, M.D., JDRF’s chief scientific officer. “Their work has provided the foundation for a therapy that could vastly improve the lives and health of people who live with diabetic macular edema. We are grateful for all they are doing for those with type 1 diabetes.”
The annual Rumbough Award was established in 1974 by actress Dina Merrill in honor of her late son, David, and is presented to scientists who have shown outstanding achievement in diabetes research.
JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is now the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal.
Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.7 billion to diabetes research. Past JDRF efforts have helped to significantly advance the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education.