Frederick L. Ferris III, M.D., and Emily Y. Chew, M.D., who are director and deputy director of the NEI Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, have received the Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research.
“It is a real honor to be chosen for the Helen Keller prize, and it has been a tremendous privilege to work at the National Eye Institute with such a large group of brilliant collaborators on projects with major public health significance,” said Dr. Ferris.
The award recognizes significant contributions to vision science, and the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education has bestowed it to one or two researchers each year since 1994.
Drs. Ferris and Chew received the award for their efforts to investigate new treatments for cataract, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic eye disease through large, multi-center clinical trials.
For example, in a landmark trial, they helped establish that laser treatment can reduce the risk of severe vision loss by up to 95 percent in people with diabetic retinopathy, a common type of diabetic eye disease. They are also founding members of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network, which has enabled other large clinical trials on the condition by joining together nearly 1000 investigators in 48 states. Drs. Ferris and Chew also launched—and continue to lead—the NEI Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2). These studies have found that certain high-dose antioxidants and minerals can reduce the risk of vision loss for people with AMD.
“I am extremely honored to receive this recognition. We are grateful to have had tremendous mentors. The Helen Keller prize is shared by our entire NEI team and collaborators involved in clinical epidemiologic research,” Dr. Chew said.
Helen Keller Laureates are selected by an international panel of experts. The prize ceremony took place May 6, 2014, at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Orlando, Fla., which attracted more than 13,000 scientists and physicians this year.