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  • Research to Prevent Blindness and American Academy of Ophthalmology Award Grants for Big Data Research to Improve Patient Care

    Award recipients to use IRIS Registry database to uncover new approaches to preventing and treating eye disease

    SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK – The American Academy of Ophthalmology and Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) today announced the recipients of the Research to Prevent Blindness/American Academy of Ophthalmology Award for IRIS® Registry Research. The grant supports researchers who want to conduct population-based studies in ophthalmology and blindness prevention.

    These four clinical researchers were selected based on the potential of their original research to advance the Academy’s mission of improving patients’ lives through research and innovation:

    Prethy Rao, MD, assistant professor, Emory University. Most adults who undergo a pars plana vitrectomy will later develop cataracts, but what about children? Dr. Rao will use the IRIS Registry to evaluate the rate at which children require cataract surgery following vitrectomy. This real-world evidence will help ophthalmologists counsel patients and their families regarding future expectations, as well as help coordinate future care among different subspecialties.

    Adam Rothman, MD, assistant professor, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami. Evidence shows that cataract surgery alone can significantly reduce intraocular pressure, but which patients best respond to this intervention? Dr. Rothman will leverage the IRIS Registry to conduct a large-scale, population-based study to help understand the IOP-lowering effect of cataract surgery based on a patient’s age, race/ethnicities, co-morbidities, whether they have glaucoma, etc. This research will provide ophthalmologists with critical insight into the best surgical options for their patients with glaucoma or those at-risk of glaucoma.

    Karen Armbrust, MD, ophthalmologist, University of Minnesota. As a rare disease, there are a lot of unknowns about how best to diagnose and treat scleritis. Dr. Armbrust will use the IRIS Registry to evaluate which treatment options are most effective in patients with different types of scleritis. This research will also help ophthalmologists determine which patients are at higher risk for worse outcomes from this potentially devastating disease and require more treatment and closer monitoring.

    Fasika Woreta, MD, assistant professor, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University. Cystoid macular edema (CME) is the most common complication following cataract surgery. However, the rate of CME varies widely across clinical studies. Dr. Woreta will use the IRIS Registry to quantify the real-world rate of CME, to identify factors associated with the development of vision loss due to CME, as well as best practices for treating this condition.

    "Using big data is an essential and effective method for conducting population-based research,” said Brian F. Hofland, PhD, president of RPB. “We are thrilled to again partner with the Academy to provide grants that enable researchers to use the IRIS Registry to conduct excellence in science with the potential to inform the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases."

    Each grant, worth $35,000, provides recipients with a subset of the massive IRIS Registry database for analysis based on their study. Researchers also receive training on how to use the IRIS Registry’s analytic capabilities, as well as $10,000 in direct research funds. Results will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication within six months of study completion. 

    The Academy and RPB created the grant to help clinical researchers use the power of the Academy’s IRIS Registry database to investigate the causes of both rare and common eye diseases and to uncover innovative approaches to prevention and treatment. The IRIS Registry is the world’s largest medical specialty clinical database, having amassed data on 73 million patients.

    “Quality eye care begins with quality science,” said David W. Parke II, MD, CEO for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The IRIS Registry is a powerful tool for uncovering better approaches to preventing and treating eye diseases. This year’s recipients show great promise for advancing patient care.”

    Launched in 2014, the IRIS Registry is the nation's first comprehensive eye disease clinical registry. The Academy developed this data-rich resource to empower ophthalmologists to effectively improve their practices, and to reveal patterns of disease and better approaches to their prevention and treatment.

    Four more grants will be awarded in 2021. The application process will open November 2020. For more information, visit the Academy’s website.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit

    About Research to Prevent Blindness
    Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is the leading nonprofit organization supporting eye research directed at the prevention, treatment or eradication of all diseases that damage and destroy sight. As part of this purview, RPB also supports efforts to grow and sustain a robust and diverse vision research community. Since it was founded in 1960 by Dr. Jules Stein, RPB has awarded more than $368 million in research grants to the most talented vision scientists at the nation’s leading medical schools. As a result, RPB has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss in the past 50 years. Learn more at