Winning submissions for the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) Audacious Goals challenge have been announced, and Oregon Health & Science University scientist, Robert Duvoisin, Ph.D., was awarded for a forward-looking idea that could restore vision using opto-electronic stimulation.
The NEI, part of the National Institutes of Health, chose ten winning submissions from a pool of nearly 500 entries for the Audacious Goals challenge, a nationwide competition for compelling, one-page ideas to advance vision science. Entries were de-identified and reviewed by experts on the basis of relevance to the NEI mission and whether the idea is bold, daring, unconventional, or exceptionally innovative; broad in scope; and potentially attainable in about 10 years.
“The Audacious Goals initiative was born out of the NEI strategic planning process, however it is much more than a standard strategic planning exercise,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., NEI director. “We are envisioning the future. When we look back 10 to 12 years from now, what do we want to have accomplished? The Audacious Goals initiative will help propel us into that future.”
Duvoisin, an Associate Professor of Physiology & Pharmacology and an Adjunct Faculty at the Casey Eye Institute, focuses his research on understanding retinal function at a molecular level. His Audacious Goal submission outlined a method for restoring vision by making nerve cells in the eye sensitive to light so that images captured by a camera can be converted to nerve signals that are sent to the brain. This vision restoration treatment is not available yet, but could be within the next ten years, according to Duvoisin.
“Implanting a stimulation device in the eye to restore vision is similar to implanting a device in the ear to restore hearing,” said Duvoisin. “However, the eyes function in a more complex way than the ears, which is why this treatment for vision restoration is not available yet. We may already have the scientific capabilities to make this a viable treatment in the future, but it’s a matter of piecing those capabilities together in a workable way to restore vision.”
The NEI Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation is part of a government-wide effort to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges through the awarding of prize money, among other types of awards. The challenge sought ideas that support the NEI mission to conduct and support research and other programs aimed at reducing the burden of vision disorders and disease worldwide. Each winner will receive a $3,000 prize plus travel expenses to attend the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24-26, 2013, at the Bolger Conference Center in Potomac, Md., outside Washington, D.C.