NEI Audacious Goals Initiative-Submit by Email

If you are ineligible to participate in the NEI Challenge Prize Competition

Submit by Email

Due Date: November 19, 2012

What is an Audacious Goal?

We are looking for bold, innovative ideas, not only from vision researchers, but also the greater community of scientists, clinicians, engineers, and the public that will support the NEI mission-“to conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health problems and requirements of the blind.” Goals should be broad in scope, not simply one project or the work of one laboratory.

For examples of audacious goals, please scroll down to “Historical Examples”.

Instructions to Submit by Email

Ideas for audacious goals must be submitted by an individual. If a team develops an idea, one member must be designated as the leader who will submit the idea and, if selected, will present and discuss the idea at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24-26, 2013. The NEI will provide up to $2,000 in travel expenses for each selected idea.

1) Ideas must be submitted by email
2) Email subject line: “AG Idea: [title of your audacious goal idea]”
3) Include your Occupation, Mailing Address, and Phone Number
4) ~1-page idea* (max. 4000 characters, including spaces)
5) Due Date: November 19, 2012

Submit to

An email confirmation will be sent. If you do NOT receive an email confirmation after one business day, please contact Dr. Jennifer Mehren at 301-496-4308.

*Your (~1 page) idea must include answers to the following three statements:

  • “It would be fantastic if…” (Explain why the goal is audacious and how the goal fits within NEI’s mission
  • “To achieve the audacious goal, …” (Discuss the feasibility of achieving the goal within about a 10 year period, including the technological, scientific, or other advances that are needed to reach the goal.)
  • “If the audacious goal is achieved, the impact would be…”

Intellectual Property Rights

By submitting an idea, you grant to NEI an irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free, nonexclusive worldwide license to post, share, and publicly display your audacious goal description on the Web, newsletters or pamphlets, and other informational products. Each submitter understands and agrees that if his/her idea is selected, it will be discussed and developed at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24-26, 2013.


NEI will evaluate your idea based on whether it is relevant to the NEI mission, audacious, feasible, broad in scope, and if achieved, would yield a powerful impact.

Historical Examples

The following historical examples are intended to provide a sense of what is meant by “audacious goals.” These were, or would have been big, bold ideas at that time. Each of these examples required multiple components and advances in a variety of areas. The NEI mission encompasses a variety of areas including basic and clinical research, epidemiology, diagnostics, information dissemination, technology development, training, and education and awareness of the special health problems caused by visual impairment.

  • An audacious goal in 1997 would have been to develop gene therapy to cure an inherited form of childhood blindness in less than 10 years.

    The first genetic mutations causing Lebers Congenital Amaurosis, a rare form of inherited childhood blindness, were identified in 1997. Multiple research groups then worked on developing gene therapy to treat this form of LCA, leading to the start of human clinical trials in 2007 and reports of success from three groups in 2008.

  • An audacious goal in 1990 would have been to develop imaging techniques to view the microscopic structures of a living human eye to aid the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

    Correcting telescope images for the blurring from turbulent atmosphere was first conceived in 1953 and applied successfully by the late 1980s. The technology was developed because the Department of Defense needed to view satellites from ground-based telescopes, but atmospheric turbulence distorted the images. Similarly, doctors could not see the microscopic structures in the back of the eye because their view was blurred by the optics of the patient’s eye. The technology developed for astronomy was modified to view the back of the eye, and successful use of this approach allowed visualization of the main light-sensing cells in retina, the cone photoreceptors, in 1999 by Roorda and Williams.

  • An audacious goal in 1986 was to sequence the entire human genome in 15 years.

    The Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health officially began the Human Genome Initiative in 1990. Important requirements at the time included enhancing sequencing and analytic technologies as well as computational resources to support future research and commercial applications, exploring gene function through mouse-human comparisons, studying human variation, and training future scientists in genomics. This required multiple approaches, labs, and expertise. A draft of the human genome was reported in 2000 and a complete genome was announced in 2003.

Last Reviewed: 
August 2012