Latest News New NEI Contest Seeks ‘Audacious Goals in Vision Research’ By Staff Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:21 AM WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, is offering $3,000 awards to as many as 20 contestants who submit the most compelling one-page ideas to advance vision science. The submission deadline for the “Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation” is Nov. 12, 2012. Winning contestants will be invited to present, discuss, and refine their ideas at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24-26, 2013, in Washington D.C. The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, leads the federal government's research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. "The Audacious Goals Challenge is a new tool in NEI strategic planning that aims to gather ideas from across the scientific spectrum to forge new approaches to persistent challenges in vision research," said NEI director Paul A. Sieving, MD, Ph.D. "Whether basic, translational, or clinical, a goal is ‘audacious’ if it fundamentally changes research or vision care by closing critical knowledge gaps, opening developmental bottlenecks, or providing key elements to translate scientific discoveries into clinical applications." The past decade, beginning with the sequencing of the human genome, has yielded unprecedented gains in knowledge and tools to conduct research, NEI pointed out. In 2005, vision researchers were among the first scientists to employ new tools from the Human Genome Project when several groups identified genetic factors for age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of legal blindness among older Americans. In 2008, vision researchers demonstrated the feasibility of human gene therapy by successfully treating patients with an inherited form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis. And in 2011, researchers created an eyeball using mouse embryonic stem cells. "Opportunities for scientific progress have never been greater, making strategic planning more critical," said Sieving. "By casting the widest net possible, the Audacious Goals Challenge will enhance our strategic planning with perspectives from people who have not traditionally been a part of the NEI planning process. Output from the challenge will help set priorities and coordinate research efforts." The Audacious Goals Challenge seeks ideas that support the NEI mission and the NEI is encouraging submissions from people in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors, including scientists, engineers, health care providers, inventors, and entrepreneurs, as well as the general public. NEI suggests Challenge contestants should consult Vision Research: Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities, NEI's most recent compilation of panel reports, representing the work of hundreds of scientists, clinicians, and stakeholders involved in vision research. Vision Research: Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities is available at www.nih.gov/strategicplanning/. Submission rules are outlined at www.nei.nih.gov/challenge.