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AG Initiative: Not Business as Usual!

The NEI typically revises its national plan for vision research about every five years (see The AG initiative is the first major expansion of planning and prioritizing at the NEI. The NEI director, Dr. Paul Sieving, in discussions with the National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC), decided that, in view of the extraordinary recent advances and opportunities, the time was right to boldly challenge the research community to establish one or more Audacious Goal to propel vision research forward. After a year, the NEI selected the AG and two high priority areas. Learn how NEI identified the AG and the two high priority research areas.

Next Steps and Changes to NEI's practices

NEI quickly issued two program announcements (PA), Molecular Therapy for Eye Disease and Intersection of Aging & Biological Mechanisms of Eye Disease. Each has an NEI scientific program director available to describe the program and answer questions. Like all applications submitted to the NEI, applications submitted to these PAs will receive a scientific review and then will be examined by the NEI staff and the NAEC for programmatic relevance.

However, since these are high priority areas, we established a new process so that applications submitted in response to these PAs will be specifically discussed and considered as a group at each NAEC meeting. This type of special consideration has never been instituted before for a scientific program and guarantees that we will be sure to identify unique opportunities and fund the very best science.

About the AG

Under the broad AG goal of Regenerate Neurons and Neural Connections in the Eye and Visual System, we identified two specific cellular targets, retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptors (see for a list of participants in the target development working group).

Typically, long-term goals are identified in NIH strategic plans, but work on any given goal is left up to individual investigators to determine whether they wish to work on the goals. This "investigator-initiated" research is the backbone of the NEI research portfolio. This AG initiative is different, however, because NEI is assuming a leadership role in order to maximize our chances of regenerating and replacing retinal cells in patients within about 10-15 years. Over the next several years, the NEI will issue funding opportunity announcements for extramural investigators, will apply intramural resources to certain aspects of the program, and will manage an external oversight committee, under the auspices of the National Advisory Eye Council, that will be responsible for identifying what knowledge, techniques, and approaches are needed, milestones for success, and the types of investigative teams that will be required to rapidly advance the state-of-the-science toward our targets.

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Last Updated: April 2014

Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health