New vision research lab to spark innovation-building collaborations

A new laboratory opening today (July 30) at University of Florida Health will spark innovation in vision research by bringing together scientists and physicians from different disciplines to collaborate in one space equipped with the latest tools needed to conduct groundbreaking eye research. The goal is to help researchers in their quest to produce more effective treatments and preventions for vision loss and blindness.

The 3,400 square-foot Research to Prevent Blindness Mildred Krahmer Sanders and William Clifford Sanders Laboratory for Vision Research will serve as a core lab for vision research. The UF College of Medicine department of ophthalmology received a $600,000 grant from the nonprofit group Research to Prevent Blindness to build the lab. The grant was made possible through a gift to Research to Prevent Blindness from the trust of Mildred Krahmer Sanders and William Clifford Sanders.

“The new lab will give us significant opportunities to advance our research,” said Sonal Tuli, M.D., chair of the department of ophthalmology. “Our department is nationally recognized for vision research and novel therapies to treat blinding eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and retinal degeneration. This laboratory will allow us to enhance this research as well as expand our portfolio significantly by increasing research space and resources.”

Existing lab space was renovated to create the new laboratory. The lab houses advanced equipment necessary for vision research such as a confocal microscope, cell and tissue culture equipment, a histology suite to study tissue samples and an electroretinogram, or ERG, which detects early changes when the retina is damaged, as well as other core resources.

As a core lab for vision research, the space is open to all researchers studying vision, not just those in the department of ophthalmology. One of the goals for the lab is to bring researchers together to spark new collaborations, Tuli said. Collaborations across disciplines could not only inspire new research ideas but also lead to larger, multidisciplinary grants and increase efficiency. Another goal of the lab is to act as an incubator for early career investigators as well as provide temporary additional space for established researchers, Tuli said.

“The faculty members of the department of ophthalmology strive to understand normal eye physiology and the causes of ocular disease. The department has a long and impressive history of accomplishments that have translated fundamental scientific research into the clinical setting, including novel genetic therapies for retinal diseases,” said Stephen P. Sugrue, Ph.D., senior associate dean of research affairs for the UF College of Medicine and a vision researcher himself. “The very generous gift from the Sanders family, which was bestowed to the researchers of this department by Research to Prevent Blindness, will enable the talented researchers in ophthalmology to accomplish even greater advances that will eventually lead to the eradication of human blindness.”

Research to Prevent Blindness has long partnered with UF, donating more than $4.42 million to date to College of Medicine researchers to pursue vision studies.

“The generous support our UF College of Medicine researchers have received and continue to receive from Research to Prevent Blindness has yielded results in vision preservation and improvement for many patients,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “Together, we are stronger.”

UF was selected to receive a construction grant for the new lab in 2013.

“Following a nationwide request for proposals, RPB’s Scientific Advisory Panel unanimously chose the University of Florida to house the RPB Sanders Lab,” said Brian F. Hofland, Ph.D., president of Research to Prevent Blindness. “From the vision that was laid out, it was eminently clear that the new lab would support the work of multiple research teams and facilitate multiple lines of inquiry. Most important, well-defined goals for the lab have it accelerating the work of the University of Florida’s cadre of cutting edge vision scientists.”

The funds for the lab were donated to Research to Prevent Blindness from the estate of Mildred Krahmer Sanders and William Clifford Sanders. The late couple has given generously to numerous causes, including substantial gifts to advance vision research.

“Sight was important to my aunt and uncle in their careers and in their lives,” said Donald Krahmer, the couple’s nephew who will represent the family at the lab’s grand opening today. “My uncle was a well-respected aeronautical engineer at Boeing and my aunt was head of Boeing’s primary engineering library. They both grew up in the greater Portland, Oregon area and came from very humble means. Later they made their life in Seattle and travelled around the world.

“From our conversations, it’s the people they met and the textures of the cultural settings they experienced on those trips that reinforced the importance of sight,” Krahmer added. “RPB was chosen after a long process in reviewing estate-planning options to ensure that the funds would be properly used to support advanced eye research. Their gifts are representative of helping people just like others helped them in their careers and lives.”

About the Author

April Frawley Lacey's picture

April Frawley Lacey

Editor / College of Medicine Science Writer

Editor of The Post and a medical writer in the HSC Office of News & Communications. Before joining the HSC News & Communications staff, she was a reporter and assistant...Read More