Newswise — February 14, 2023, San Francisco, CA — During festivities at the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) Annual Gala at the Westin St. Francis last week, president and CEO Thomas M. Brunner awarded the 2023 Shaffer Prize for Innovative Glaucoma Research to both Rachel Wang Kuchtey, MD, PhD of Vanderbilt University and Lev Prasov, MD, PhD from the Kellogg Eye Institute, University of Michigan.
“Each year, Glaucoma Research Foundation funds up to nine $50,000 grants to encourage bright investigators to bring new ideas to the field of glaucoma,” Mr. Brunner said. “To date, GRF has awarded almost 300 of these one-year Shaffer Grants for Innovative Glaucoma Research, which are named in honor of GRF co-founder, Robert N. Shaffer, MD.”
Due to research delays during the pandemic, GRF postponed giving a Shaffer Prize for one year to allow time for 2020 Shaffer Grant recipients to complete their projects. Therefore, this year the 2023 Shaffer Prize for Innovative Glaucoma Research recognizes two Shaffer Grant recipients whose projects best exemplify the pursuit of breakthrough ideas in the quest to better understand and cure glaucoma: Rachel Wang Kuchtey, MD, PhD from the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, for her 2020 Shaffer Grant project, and Lev Prasov, MD, PhD from the University of Michigan, for his 2021 Shaffer Grant project.
Dr. Rachel Kuchtey’s 2020 project, titled “Investigation of Ocular Biomechanical Defects in Mice with Microfibril and Elastic Fiber Defects,” looked at age-related changes in the stiffness of ocular tissue. “Receiving the Shaffer Prize gives me new energy and motivation to deliver hope and potential new treatments to my glaucoma patients,” Dr. Kuchtey said. “Supported by the GRF Shaffer Grant, we paved a new avenue of glaucoma treatment by manipulating tissue biomechanical properties,” she added.
Dr. Lev Prasov’s 2021 project “Elucidating the Role of a Novel Closure Associated Gene in Eye Development and Disease” investigated the role of a novel regulatory protein to better understand a developmental pathway that leads to angle closure glaucoma. “As an early career clinician-scientist, the Shaffer Prize represents a validation that my lab’s work is meaningful to the glaucoma community and that our progress is appreciated by patients, researchers, and clinicians,” Dr. Prasov said. “This is a true honor for our laboratory and helps motivate us to continue our work in identifying pathogenic mechanisms for glaucoma that could be targeted in the future with therapeutics.”
Both prize-winning research projects identified new therapeutic avenues for potential glaucoma treatments. The Shaffer Prize was established in 2007 to honor the late Robert N. Shaffer, MD, who co-founded Glaucoma Research Foundation in 1978. He was a pioneer in the field of glaucoma and a Clinical Professor Emeritus in Ophthalmology at University of California San Francisco, where he taught for a half century. His extensive writing on glaucoma includes over 90 articles and books.