Our Research History

Image of Prof Pete Humphries, Prof Jane Farrar and Dr. Paul Kenna

Fighting Blindness is a great Irish success story. We are global leaders in our field and are pushing the frontiers of science with our work. Finding cures for blindness will be one of the great achievements of history and here in Ireland we are at the forefront of this endeavour.

Thirty years ago there were only questions, now there are answers. We will work tirelessly to continue our commitment to deliver preventions, treatments and cures for all our members.

January 2013: Fighting Blindness continues to support gene therapy Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) research in Prof Jane Farrar’s laboratory in TCD in conjunction with the Health Research Board over the next three years.

January 2013: Prof Tom Cotter in UCC is the recipient of a direct investment of €150,000 to help progress a promising drug compound from the laboratory to the clinic. This exciting research hopes to produce a therapy for patients with all forms of retinitis pigmentosa.

November 2012: Many of the top retina researchers in the world are invited to speak at Fighting Blindness’s Retina conference 2012 hosted in Dublin city centre, making it the most successful Retina conference thus far.

September 2012: Fighting Blindness establishes a Stem Cell Consortium to facilitate Irish researchers and clinicians to design a research strategy for adult stem cell research in Ireland.

May 2012: Target 3000, our most ambitious project to date, is officially launched. The aim of Target 3000 is to identify every retinal disease causing gene mutation in the Irish population by DNA sequencing the estimated 3000 Irish people believed to have a degenerative retinal condition over the next three years patient information evening.

November 2011: Genable Technologies raises €5 million in venture capital in order to progress their patented “Suppression and Replacement” gene therapy approach for Rhodopsin (RHO)-linked autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP) towards human clinical trials.

November 2011: Retina Conference becomes a two day event, incorporating a public engagement day on day two of the conference, allowing our members to interact and speak freely with our invited speakers

October 2011: Fighting Blindness funds two applicants in the joint funding scheme. Prof Pete Humphries is successful with an application to elucidate the new disease mechanism associated with RP involving the RPE65 gene. Prof Farrar along with Dr Fiona Mansergh’s project examines models of retinal degenerations and investigates retinal stem cells specifically in animal models.

June 2011: Prof Humphries’s team at the Ocular Genetics Unit in Trinity College Dublin identify the RPE65 gene as being causative for a form of autosomal dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa with choroidal involvement in a large Irish family.

September 2009: A three year grant is awarded to Prof Humphries for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) Research. This project investigates the potential development of small molecules capable of opening and closing the retina-blood barrier to allow drugs taken orally and dissolved in the blood access the inside of the eye, eliminating the need for regular injections.

Image of Prof Robin AliJanuary 2009: Prof Robin Ali, of University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital – a pioneer in retinal research – joins Fighting Blindness as Chief Scientific Officer.

September 2008: Research begins in Trinity College Dublin under the guidance of Prof Farrar to develop viral therapy strategies for LHON.

April 2008: Fighting Blindness helped fund the world’s first clinical trial for blindness to test a revolutionary gene therapy treatment for a form of Lebers congenital amaurosis (LCA2) which improved a young man’s sight.

2008: Fighting Blindness invest in Genable Technologies, a spin-off campus based company focused on developing new gene medicines to treat genetic retinal disease.

2006: The very first joint funding scheme between the MRCG and the HRB is launched. Fighting Blindness is successful with four applications. Two projects are focused on stem cell research; Dr. Breandán Kennedy in University College Dublin employs a zebrafish model of retinal degeneration and Dr Marius Ader in Trinity College Dublin uses a mouse model. Mr. Stephen Beatty in Waterford IT is successful with a project examining if the distribution of macular pigment in different parts of the eye is important in AMD onset. Prof Humphries research focuses on a rare form of RP caused by mutations within the IMPDH1 gene.

2001: Fighting Blindness pioneers the All Ireland Retinal Research Network (AIRRN) to accelerate research into cures and treatments for retinal diseases, enabling those working in this research field to discuss their work. This in later years becomes the Retina Conference.

1998: Fighting Blindness helps launch the Medical Research Charities Group (MRCG) to inform and support charities in Ireland in the development of their medical research through one unified voice.

1995: Fighting Blindness approach the distinguished cancer researcher Prof Tom Cotter of University College Cork to study the mechanism of programmed cell death that leads to photoreceptor degeneration.

1992: The team in Trinity identify a second gene implicated in autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa – Peripherin-2

1989: Prof Humphries’s team in Trinity College Dublin identify the Rhodopsin gene, the first gene implicated in retinitis pigmentosa.

1985: The group decides to form the charity Fighting Blindness to search for a cure. With a £5,000 grant, they pay for a team at Trinity University in Dublin to carry out a successful feasibility study and the research begins.

1983: Six families diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa come together as a group to support each other.