Important Events in NEI History
Dr. Jules Stein speaks in favor of creating the NEI before the House Subcommittee on Public Health and Welfare (November 1, 1967).
August 16, 1968
National Eye Institute was established when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-489. The new NIH institute was the first government organization solely dedicated to research on human visual diseases and disorders. NEI officially began operations on December 26, 1968, and the National Advisory Eye Council met for the first time on April 3, 1969.
April 3-4, 1969
First meeting of the NEI National Advisory Eye Council is held.
January 11, 1970
Dr. Carl Kupfer appointed NEI Director.
December 15, 1970
Reorganization of the NEI resulted in the formation of an Office of Biometry and Epidemiology; an Office of the Director of Intramural Research; the Laboratory of Vision Research; and a Clinical Branch.
Publication of the National Advisory Eye Council's report, Vision Research Program Planning, was the first comprehensive assessment of major needs and opportunities in vision research in the United States.
April 1, 1976
Results from the Diabetic Retinopathy Study proved that laser treatment is effective for treating diabetic retinopathy.
Publication of the National Advisory Eye Council's 5-year plan, Vision Research: 1978-1982, which included review and analysis of vision research and research training in the United States and discussion of future priorities.
The Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research was established within the intramural research program.
The Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Biology was established within the intramural research program.
The National Advisory Eye Council's second 5-year plan, Vision Research-A National Plan 1983-1987, recommended future NEI programs.
July 19, 1984
The Office of Biometry and Epidemiology was transferred out of the Office of the Director and established as the Biometry and Epidemiology Program within the Intramural Research Program; now the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications.
An intramural research program reorganization of the Laboratory of Vision Research created the Laboratories of Mechanisms of Ocular Diseases; Retinal Cell and Molecular Biology; and Immunology.
The National Advisory Eye Council's Vision Research-A National Plan: 1983-1987 and 1987 Evaluation and Update, discussed accomplishments since the 1983-1987 plan was published, evaluated the status of NEI-supported research activities, and revised priorities for the next 2 years.
The Collaborative Clinical Vision Research Branch was established to provide overall scientific management and administration for NEI grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements supporting clinical trials and epidemiologic studies.
Results from the Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity Study proved that freeze treatment reduces blindness in premature infants.
The Office of International Program Activities was created to enhance coordination of NEI's international activities, particularly those relating to cooperation with nongovernmental organizations, international agencies, and the international components of other federal agencies.
Results from the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study provided further evidence that laser treatment is highly effective in treating diabetic retinopathy.
Results from the Fluorouracil Filtering Surgery Study proved that fluorouracil improves glaucoma surgery outcome.
February 10, 1990
The Ophthalmic Genetics and Clinical Services Branch (now Ophthalmic Genetics and Visual Function Branch) was established in the intramural research program.
Results from the Glaucoma Laser Trial proved that laser therapy shows promise as an alternative to glaucoma drugs.
Results from the Foscarnet and Ganciclovir Study showed that patients with AIDS treated for cytomegalovirus retinitis with foscarnet lived longer than those who received the standard treatment of ganciclovir.
The NEI established the National Eye Health Education Program, following Congressional directive that NEI increase its commitment to the prevention of blindness through public and professional education programs that encourage early detection and timely treatment of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
Results from the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial proved that oral corticosteroids alone were found ineffective for optic neuritis.
Results from the Collaborative Corneal Transplantation Study proved that patient donor blood type matching improves corneal transplantation outcome.
The Early Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy Study 5-year follow-up showed that current treatment for diabetic retinopathy is 95 percent effective in maintaining vision.
Spring 1993-Spring 1995
A "Celebration of Vision Research" commemorated the NEI's 25th anniversary.
The NEI and its advisory body, the National Advisory Eye Council, produced and distributed its fifth long-range plan, Vision Research-A National Plan: 1994-1998, that contained policy recommendations and scientific program priorities.
Results from the Retinitis Pigmentosa Study reported most adults with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) should take a daily 15,000 IU vitamin A palmitate supplement.
The Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial found that corticosteroids for optic neuritis lowers risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Ten-year results released from the Radial Keratotomy (RK) Study found that RK remained a reasonably safe and effective technique to improve distance vision.
Results from the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Retinitis Study reported that a new drug-releasing device was effective in treating CMV retinitis in people with AIDS.
The Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Decompression Trial was haulted when results found eye surgery was ineffective for optic neuropathy and may be harmful.
Results from the Endophthalmitis Vitrectomy Study found that vitrectomy surgery is not necessary for three-fourths of patients who develop an intraocular bacterial infection called endophthalmitis.
Seven year follow up results from the Glaucoma Laser Trial found that laser therapy is a safe and effective alternative to eye drops as a first-line treatment for patients with newly diagnosed primary open-angle glaucoma.
Results from the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Retinitis Retreatment Trial found that a combination of two antiviral drugs is more effective than either drug alone for controlling recurrences of CMV retinitis in people with AIDS.
Five and a half year follow up results from the Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity Study confirmed that cryotherapy applied to the eyes of premature babies helps save their sight.
The Monoclonal Antibody Cytomegalovirus Retinitis Trial was stopped when the drug, MSL 109 did not slow the progression of CMV retinitis.
Results from a clinical trial found that a combination of protease inhibitors and other anti-HIV drugs used to treat people with AIDS can prevent or delay the progression of CMV retinitis.
Results from the Effects of Light Reduction on Retinopathy of Prematurity have determined that light reduction has no effect on the development of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in low birth weight infants.
Results from the Collaborative Ocular Melanoma Study found that the survival rates for two alternative treatments for primary eye cancer--radiation therapy and removal of the eye--are about the same.
The NEI and National Advisory Eye Council produced and distributed Vision Research-A National Plan: 1999-2003, that contained policy recommendations and scientific program priorities. In developing this five-year plan, the NEI and its advisory council assembled panels of over 100 experts representing each of NEI's formal programs and special interest areas. In drafting this plan, special consideration was given to the purpose, intent, and requirements of the Government Performance and Review Act.
Results from the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study found that blacks with advanced glaucoma benefit more from a regimen that begins with laser surgery and whites benefit more from one that begins with an operation called a trabeculectomy.
Results from the Herpetic Eye Disease Study found that an antiviral drug, often used to suppress genital herpes, also decreases the recurrence of herpes of the eye.
October 19, 1999
The NEI launched the Low Vision Education Program, part of the National Eye Health Education Program.
The NEI was designated the lead agency for a new focus area on vision in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 initiative.
Researchers found that modest supplemental oxygen given to premature infants with moderate cases of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) may not significantly improve ROP, but definitely does not make it worse.
July 15, 2000
Carl Kupfer, M.D., stepped aside after 30 years as director of the NEI. Jack A. McLaughlin, Ph.D., is named acting director, NEI.
June 17, 2001
Paul A. Sieving, M.D, Ph.D., assumes duties as director, NEI.
October 12, 2001
Results from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found high levels of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and its associated vision loss.
February 14, 2002
100th meeting of the National Advisory Eye Council was held.
Results from the Amblyopia Treatment Study found that atropine eye drops given once a day to treat amblyopia, or lazy eye, work as well as the standard treatment of patching one eye.
Results from the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study discovered that eye drops used to treat elevated pressure inside the eye can be effective in delaying the onset of glaucoma.
Results from the Early Manifest Glaucoma Trial found that immediately treating people who have early stage glaucoma can delay progression of the disease.
Researchers found that patching the unaffected eye of children with moderate amblyopia for two hours daily works as well as patching the eye for six hours.
The NEI published and released its National Plan for Eye and Vision Research, the first strategic plan produced through a new, two-phase planning process. This ongoing planning process involves the assessment of important areas in eye and vision research and the development of new goals and objectives that address outstanding needs and opportunities for additional progress. Workshops, conferences, or symposia in critical or emerging areas of science are conducted during the second phase of the planning process to explore how they might be applied to diseases of the eye and disorders of vision.
Results from the Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Study demonstrated that premature infants, who are at the highest risk for developing vision loss from retinopathy of prematurity, will retain better vision when therapy is administered in the early stage of the disease.
In a follow up study from the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study, researchers reported eye drops that reduce elevated pressure inside the eye can delay or possibly prevent the onset of glaucoma in African Americans at higher risk for developing the disease.
Results from the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study, the largest, most comprehensive epidemiological analysis of visual impairment in Latinos conducted in the U.S., found that Latinos had high rates of eye disease and visual impairment.
Results from the Submacular Surgery Trials indicated that vision does not improve substantially for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) who underwent surgery to remove lesions of new blood vessels, scar tissue, or possible bleeding beneath the retina.
Results from four studies identified a gene that is strongly associated with a person's risk for developing age-related macular degeneration.
Researchers show that many children age seven through 17 with amblyopia (lazy eye) may benefit from treatments that are more commonly used on younger children.
NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni and Dr. Maharaj K. Bahn, Secretary, of the Department of Biotechnology, India, signs a United States-India Statement of Intent for Collaboration on Expansion of Vision Research.
A clinical trial concluded that a single dose of azithromycin taken by mouth after surgery reduces by one-third the recurrence of a vision-threatening eyelid condition called trichiasis.
The National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping and Phenotyping Network (eyeGENE®) was created by the NEI to foster research into the genetic causes of ophthalmic disorders by broadening patient and family access to genetic diagnostic testing and by maintaining a national repository of genetic samples from highly characterized individuals.
Results from the Complications of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Prevention Trial indicated that low-intensity laser is ineffective in preventing complications of AMD or loss of vision.
The Neurobiology-Neurodegeneration and Repair Laboratory was established in the intramural program.
Researchers found that a promising new drug therapy used to treat diabetic macular edema proved less effective than traditional laser treatments.
Results from the phase I clinical trial for gene therapy found that three young adults with Leber congenital amaurosis--a severe degenerative disease of the retina caused by a mutation in the RPE65 gene-reported improvements in vision after undergoing a specialized gene transfer procedure.
Results from the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial found that approximately 75 percent of patients with convergence insufficiency who received in-ofice therapy by a trained therapist plus at-home treatment reported fewer and less severe symptoms related to reading and other near work.
Three young adults who received gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis remained healthy and maintained previous visual gains one year later (see September 2008).
Scientists found that laser therapy is equivalent to two different dosages of corticosteroid medications for treating vision loss from the blockage of small veins in the back of the eye, a condition known as branch retinal vein occlusion (BROV).
Researchers have identified the first long-term, effective treatment to improve vision and reduce vision loss associated with blockage of large veins in the eye.
A large genetic study of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) identified three new genes associated with this blinding eye disease-two involved in the cholesterol pathway.
Researchers have shown that ranibizumab eye injections, often in combination with laser treatment, result in better vision than laser treatment alone for diabetes-associated swelling of the retina.
Long-term results of the Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity study confirmed that the visual benefit of early treatment for selected infants continues through six years of age.
Results from the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) found that Latinos have higher rates of developing visual impairment, blindness, diabetic eye disease, and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites.
Results from the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Eye Study (ACCORD) study found that in adults with type 2 diabetes, two therapies may slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Researchers report results from the first year of a two-year clinical trial Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT) that Avastin, a drug approved to treat some cancers and that is commonly used off-label to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is effective as the approved drug Lucentis for the treatment of AMD.
The NEI issues its Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation as part of a new government-wide effort to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation's most pressing challenges using prize competitions. The NEI Audacious Goals Initiative is an expansion of the institute's strategic planning that aims to forge new approaches to persistent challenges in vision research.
NEI published Vision Research: Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities, its most recent compilation of panel reports that describes highlights of progress, current needs, and opportunities in all six major NEI program areas: retinal diseases; corneal diseases; lens and cataract; glaucoma and optic neuropathies; strabismus, amblyopia, and visual processing; and low vision and blindness rehabilitation. This compilation, issued every five to seven years, represents the work of hundreds of scientists, clinicians, and stakeholders involved in vision research.
The Argus II retinal prosthesis—a "bionic eye" that improves vision for people with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa—was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. NEI provided research funding for the development of the Argus II, which is marketed by the company Second Sight.
NEI held its Audacious Goals Development Meeting, where winners of the NEI Audacious Goals Challenge presented their ideas, and where roughly 200 vision researchers, patient advocates, ophthalmologists, and optometrists from the U.S. and abroad discussed the ideas for further expansion, development, and refinement. A single audacious goal and two high priority research areas emerged from this meeting. The audacious goal is to regenerate neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system, and the two high priority research areas are 1) molecular therapy for eye disease and 2) the intersection of aging and biological mechanisms of eye disease.
The NEI completed the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2, which tested several changes to the original AREDS formulation containing vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper. They tried adding omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are in the same family of nutrients as beta-carotene. The researchers also tried substituting lutein and zeaxanthin for beta-carotene, which prior studies had associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. The study found that while omega-3 fatty acids had no effect on the formulation, lutein and zeaxanthin together appeared to be a safe and effective alternative to beta-carotene.
As part of the Audacious Goal Initiative, a funding opportunity announcement is posted for the high priority research area focusing on molecular therapy for eye disease: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-13-283.html.
As part of the Audacious Goal Initiative, a funding opportunity announcement is posted for the high priority research area focusing on the intersection of aging and biological mechanisms of eye disease: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-13-332.html.
The NEI-funded Cornea Donor Study showed that 10 years after a cornea transplant, corneas from 71-year-old donors remained as healthy as corneas from donors half that age. The study found that corneal transplantation success rates were slightly higher for donors under 34 and somewhat lower for donors over 71.