Karl E. Kador, Ph.D., a researcher at the UMKC Vision Research Center, has received a nearly $2-million grant from the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health. The funding will support his work to develop a novel approach for treating patients suffering end-stage glaucoma.
This most advanced phase of glaucoma is an extremely serious condition in which very little healthy retinal tissue remains. This results in a high level of visual damage and a much greater risk of blindness.
Kador’s research focuses on injuries and diseases of the optic nerve that lead to the death of retinal ganglion cells, which connect the retina to the brain. He is using tissue engineering to develop methods of transplanting new cells to replace those dead cells. The aim is to restore vision to patients suffering end-stage glaucoma and other eye disorders.
Kador’s NIH grant will be fully funded at $1,937,500 for a five-year period beginning May 1, 2018.
“The NIH R01 grant is widely considered the gold standard for outstanding biomedical research,” said Peter Koulen, Ph.D., Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research and co-director of the Vision Research Center. “Dr. Kador’s grant adds significantly to the national recognition and growth of our ongoing research programs at UMKC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Research Center. These programs have been continually NIH-funded since 2009.”
An assistant professor of ophthalmology and biomedical sciences, Kador joined the School of Medicine and the Vision Research Center last March. Koulen said receiving this major NIH funding is an outstanding achievement in light of the difficult funding climate for researchers. He also noted that the grant comes less than a year after Kador joined the UMKC research faculty.
“Dr. Kador’s program, recognized by this highly competitive NIH support, brings the promise for groundbreaking and highly impactful research to Kansas City,” Koulen said. “But also, and more importantly, it brings renewed hope for our patients and the communities we serve.”
Nelson Sabates, M.D., chair of the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology and founder of the Vision Research Center, said there is an urgent need for enhanced research such as Kador’s to battle the adverse effects of glaucoma and similar eye diseases.
“A significant number of people suffer from glaucoma and other debilitating eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy,” Sabates said. “Dr. Kador and his efforts in tissue engineering are another example of the novel work taking place at the Vision Research Center that will benefit individuals in our community and worldwide.”
The program at the Vision Research Center also aligns with the mission of the UMKC Health Sciences District, a cooperative of 12 neighboring health care institutions on Hospital Hill. Formed in 2017, the partnership supports research, grants, community outreach and shared wellness for employees, faculty, students and surrounding neighborhoods.