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NEI Awards $25,000 Prize for Lab Grown Retinas

The National Eye Institute has awarded $25,000 to a team from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine for their work in creating a tissue model that replicates the complexity and functionality of a human retina.

The prize was part of the 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge 2020, an ongoing NEI initiative to generate human retina organoids from stem cells.

“If a true human macula can be recapitulated in a dish, that would spur development of needed therapies,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving. “Having an open competition to develop retinal organoids is a unique way to catalyze innovation. There’s still almost $1 million in prize money available for teams that can deliver on this challenge.”

The winning team was led by Wei Liu, Ph.D., at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a clinical research facility affiliated with the Montefiore Medical Center and Yeshiva University in The Bronx, NY.

Liu’s team demonstrated the generation of mini retinas that included cone photoreceptors. Liu’s tissue model is used in the research of retinitis pigmentosa and Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).

Nearly $1 million in prize money is still available to teams in the 3-D ROC competition. The NEI encourages “multidisciplinary collaborations among vision researchers, and those with expertise in stem cell research and bioengineering” to apply, even if they have not participated in the past.

Read more about 3-D ROC here: https://nei.nih.gov/3DROC

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