COLUMBIA, Md.—The Foundation Fighting Blindness, an organization committed to driving the research for treatments and cures for blinding retinal diseases, has announced the recipients of the first awards in the PRPH2 and Associated Retinal Diseases (PARD) Program. These grants mark a milestone in advancing research into retinal diseases caused by mutations in the PRPH2 gene, according to the announcement. Following an international call for proposals, the Foundation has awarded nearly $1 million to two distinguished researchers: Andrew Goldberg, Ph.D., of Oakland University, and Yoshikazu Imanishi, Ph.D., of Indiana University, the organization stated.

These awards are the first of six anticipated grants to be distributed over three years through the collaboration between the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Nixon Visions Foundation.

“These inaugural grants represent a significant investment in cutting-edge research aimed at understanding and ultimately treating PRPH2-related retinal diseases,” said Amy Laster, Ph.D., senior vice president, science strategy and awards at the Foundation Fighting Blindness. “By funding these projects, we are accelerating progress toward innovative therapies that could restore vision and improve the quality of life for individuals affected by these conditions. This is a pivotal moment in inherited retinal disease research, and we are excited to see the transformative discoveries that will emerge from this collaboration.”

 Andrew Goldberg, Ph.D. (l) and Yoshikazu Imanishi, Ph.D.
“We are proud to provide financial support to these exceptional researchers in their pursuit of novel therapies for PRPH2-associated retinal diseases,” added Brandon Nixon, chief executive officer at the Nixon Visions Foundation. “We look forward to the important discoveries these initial grants will yield as part of our foundation’s multi-year PRPH2 research funding initiative. We are committed to advancing the science that will lead to treatments and cures for these diseases.”

Mutations in the PRPH2 gene are a leading cause of retinal degenerations such as retinitis pigmentosa and certain macular dystrophies, the organization noted. The focus of the research funded by these awards include:

  • Dr. Goldberg – Natural history and AAV-mediated interventions for dominant negative and haploinsufficient mouse models of PRPH2-associated disease. These studies will provide thorough characterization of two mouse models of PRPH2-associated disease and test whether providing a functional copy of PRPH2 can prevent or slow disease progression.

  • Dr. Imanishi – Elucidating pathophysiological mechanisms and advancing high-throughput drug discovery in PRPH2-related retinal dystrophies. This study aims to identify small molecules that can help mutant PRPH2 localize to photoreceptor outer segments and to understand how rods and cones are differentially affected by mutant PRPH2 protein.
The PRPH2 and Associated Retinal Diseases Program, established in partnership with the Nixon Visions Foundation, was unveiled in March 2023 during a joint workshop focused on PRPH2, the organization noted. This initiative emerged from a consensus among retinal disease experts regarding critical research gaps within the field.