Moran Researcher Rebecca Pfeiffer Selected as Emerging Vision Scientist

It’s clear to see the potential and important perspective of young scientists like John A. Moran Eye Center’s Rebecca Pfeiffer, PhD.

Less clear is the landscape for continued federal funding that will support their careers.

Pfeiffer, age 29, is retinal researcher in the lab of Moran’s Bryan Jones, PhD. She was among 20 young scientists selected to speak about their work and advocate for continued federal research funding as part of the 2017 National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research and the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR/AEVR) Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative on Washington’s Capitol Hill.

Like other emerging researchers chosen for the event, Pfeiffer has not yet received an R01 level National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute (NEI/NIH) grant. But the impact of successful research in her area of interest—age-related macular degeneration—could be significant.

A major focus of research at Moran, AMD is a disease where the center of the retina degenerates and leads to progressive vision loss. As the name suggests, one of the major risk factors is age, which means that with an aging population the incidence of AMD is expected to rise. It is projected that 3 million Americans will be affected by AMD by 2020.

Pfeiffer presented a research poster entitled “Remodeling and Neurodegeneration in Retinal Disease.” She discussed what happens to the retina in retinitis pigmentosa and AMD, and the general aspects of retinal remodeling, along with her more recent findings regarding neurodegeneration.

”Coinciding with photoreceptor degeneration in retinal diseases, the underlying cellular and metabolic architecture of the retina are altered due to retinal remodeling and there is eventual widespread neurodegeneration,” said Pfeiffer. “These disease processes are a challenge for therapeutic intervention efforts, making basic research into understanding disease progression crucial to finding new treatments.”

During her visit, Pfeiffer shared her research at a congressional reception and visited Utah’s Congressional Delegation.

“I emphasized that continued, predictable NIH/NEI funding is important to the success of developing therapeutics for vision disorders, and the urgency of further treatments for vision loss,” said Pfeiffer.

Vision loss is anticipated to cost Americans $717 billion by 2050, in addition to the current costs $145 billion.

The event, held in September 2017, was funded by Research to Prevent Blindness.