Taubman Institute, JDRF announce Healthy Eyes Scholar


JDRF and Ford Motor Company Fund enable research on diabetic eye disease


ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School and JDRF, the global leader in finding cures and treatments for type 1 diabetes (T1D), announced that they have named Tom Gardner, M.D., M.S. as the first Healthy Eyes Taubman Scholar.

JDRF and the Taubman Institute will support a three-year grant for Gardner to study novel treatments and biomarkers (indicators that can measure the progress of disease and the effectiveness of treatments) for diabetic retinopathy, the most common and most serious eye-related complication of diabetes.

Gardner will receive funding of $150,000 per year for three years from the Taubman Institute’s endowment and JDRF. JDRF’s grant to Dr. Gardner is supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund as part of JDRF’s Healthy Eyes Project, an initiative focused on diabetic eye disease to ensure that the substantial progress in retinopathy science is translated into treatments for people with diabetes.  

"This research offers promise longer term for those facing or living with blindness caused by diabetes," says Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. "This investment is made possible by the thousands of Ford employees around the world who together with Ford Motor Company have raised tens of millions to support JDRF and diabetes research."  

 Taubman Institute director Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., says the collaboration with JDRF represents the first time an outside organization has co-sponsored a Taubman Scholar.

“This exciting collaboration is making it possible for us to accept yet another eminent researcher into the program,” says Feldman. “We’re proud of our relationship with JDRF and delighted to welcome Dr. Gardner and his colleagues to our pool of scientists who are working on cutting-edge cures and treatment. Reduced or lost vision is among the many complications of diabetes, and Dr. Gardner is in the forefront of scientists seeking a cure for this devastating side effect.”

Gardner is Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center. In addition to his patient practice, teaching and research at the Kellogg Eye Center, Dr. Gardner is director of the JDRF Diabetic Retinopathy Center.  He is the author or co-author of more than one hundred articles and is a co-recipient of a recent grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Dr. Gardner earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and performed his residency in ophthalmology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  

“I’m thrilled and honored,” says Gardner, who will use the grant to continue his pioneering approach to diagnosing and treating the deterioration of the retina in diabetes patients. Unlike other areas of the body, for example, the retina cannot be tested with a biopsy, so he has developed other methods for minutely examining the structure of the eye and the damage caused by diabetes.

“We hope to not only understand what causes retinopathy and how to prevent it, but perhaps even to restore the vision in patients who have lost it,” he says. “Right now we truly have nothing to offer those people, but I think it’s worth the attempt. The Taubman Institute likes bold and audacious ideas, and we’ve given them one.”

Gardner joins 18 other Taubman scientists, including members of the senior scholars, scholars and emerging scholars programs.  Each of them is a practicing physician as well as a researcher, and they’re investigating cures for diseases and conditions ranging from stroke to obesity, from cancer to ALS. For more information visit www.taubmaninstitute.org.

About diabetic retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new cases of legal blindness among adults aged 20 to 74 years in the United States. It is a progressive disease that causes retinal swelling and destroys small blood vessels in the retina, eventually leading to vision problems. In its most advanced forms, known as diabetic macular edema and proliferative retinopathy, it can cause moderate to severe vision loss and blindness. According to the National Eye Institute, 40-45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.

About the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute: In 2008 Michigan businessman and philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman provided the initial funds to establish the institute, which now is part of the University of Michigan Medical School.  Its mission is to provide the university’s finest medical scientists the freedom, resources and collaborative environment they need to push the boundaries of medical discovery, to produce breakthroughs in cures to speed the development of effective treatment for some of the most devastating illnesses.  

About JDRF:  

JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is now the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal. Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.6 billion to diabetes research. Past JDRF efforts have helped to significantly advance the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered. More than 80 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education. For more information, please visit www.jdrf.org.

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services:

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. For more than 60 years, Ford Motor Company Fund has operated with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and dealers work on projects each year that better their communities in more than 40 countries. For more information, visit www.community.ford.com.


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