Researchers at the University of California San Diego soon may edge closer to uncovering ways to reverse the effects of glaucoma, boosted by a $20 million gift of support from Hanna and Mark Gleiberman.
According to the university, the gift will establish the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research at UC San Diego, which will be housed within the Viterbi Family Vision Research Center at UC San Diego.
The university noted that the funds are designated to stimulate research on advanced glaucoma, with the ultimate goal of protecting and restoring the vision of those who suffer from the condition.
Mark Gleiberman, who has been diagnosed with glaucoma, is aware of the need and urgency to find a cure. He receives ongoing care from Robert N. Weinreb, MD, chairman and Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology, director of the Shiley Eye Institute and holder of the Morris Gleich, MD, Chair in Glaucoma at UC San Diego.
“We have seen the incredible work that is being done at the Shiley Eye Institute, both from a clinical and research perspective. I believe that the glaucoma team at Shiley, led by Dr. Weinreb, is truly the top glaucoma team in the world,” said Gleiberman, who is founder and CEO of MG Properties. “Hanna and I hope that our donation will greatly assist in accelerating and enhancing the groundbreaking work already being done.”
The university noted that in addition to establishing the new center, the Gleibermans’ gift will create three new endowed chairs — Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Glaucoma Research I, II and III — to support the recruitment of exceptional vision scientists to the research team.
“UC San Diego has an established history as one of the nation’s top places for vision care and research, and this gift will serve to bolster even further the leading-edge work taking place to combat glaucoma,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “We are grateful to Hanna and Mark Gleiberman for their visionary support of this new center, which follows their past generous support to combat cancer and address societal issues such as homelessness.”
Finding a cure for glaucoma
According to the university, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over 60 years of age, but it can affect patients of all ages, including children. The progressive eye disease affects more than 3 million people in the United States and 70 million individuals worldwide.
The Gleibermans’ donation will bolster efforts to find effective ways of restoring vision to glaucoma patients in whom optic nerve damage has already occurred. Researchers will test various potential treatments, including utilizing stem cells to promote optic nerve regeneration. Investigators will also look at how to protect patients’ existing vision by identifying and rescuing retinal ganglion cells that have not yet died due to the condition.
“We are so grateful to Hanna and Mark Gleiberman for making this generous investment,” said Weinreb, who will serve as the principal investigator. “Our team plans to consider therapeutic approaches that will help achieve the goal to restore the vision of those who suffer from glaucoma.”
According to Weinreb, the gift will help UC San Diego grow the team of physician-scientists and staff members focused on glaucoma research with the goal of accelerating the delivery of laboratory discoveries to patients in the clinical setting.
The three new endowed chairs will support the recruitment of top researchers in the field. The chairs will also receive matching funds from the UC San Diego Chancellor’s Endowed Chair and Faculty Fellowship Challenge.
“We understand that to regenerate the optic nerve damage which has already occurred is no small task, and likely to be a research project taking many years,” Gleiberman explained. “But we believe that the Shiley Eye Institute team is very well equipped to take this on with results which can potentially benefit millions of people worldwide.”