The Downtown San Diego Lions were looking for a project that would pack a punch. With the goal of accelerating research to prevent blindness, the Downtown San Diego Lions Club Welfare Foundation made a US$400,000 gift to support the UC San Diego Shiley Eye Institute’s BioBank—the largest gift the organization has made to a single project. In recognition of their support, the BioBank research lab at the Shiley Eye Institute has been named the Downtown San Diego Lions Club BioBank for Vision. The BioBank was launched in 2012 with the goal of leveraging the latest in bioinformatics technology and genetic-sequencing tools to advance understanding of diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy—all of which are leading causes of blindness in the United States. The BioBank provides a library of biological samples with complete medical and family history and other demographic information that researchers can use to learn about predictors for diseases (biomarkers) and effectiveness of therapies. “The BioBank allows our ophthalmology team to make remarkable advances in understanding the biology of diseases and the promise of personalized medicine,” says Robert N. Weinreb, M.D., chair and Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Shiley Eye Institute. “The support from the San Diego Lions Club Welfare Foundation aids our research and helps us to better diagnose, prevent and treat eye diseases.” The Lions went to UC San Diego with the goal of supporting a major project that leverages the latest technology and research to help patients with blinding eye diseases. “The BioBank has the potential to make a significant difference for the thousands of patients in San Diego with blinding eye diseases, as well as patients around the world,” says Steve Zapoticzny, president of the Downtown San Diego Lions Club. “We are thrilled to join the Shiley Eye Institute—the nation’s leading institute for efforts to prevent and cure blindness—in this partnership.” Terry Loftus, past president for the Downtown San Diego Lions Club, led the partnership proposal along with fellow Lion and Past President George Saadeh. “We were looking into stem cell and genetic research that is making strides toward curing these diseases,” says Loftus. “When we came across an article about what UC San Diego is doing in this area, the pieces started to fall into place.” At the Shiley Eye Institute, doctors and researchers have made measurable progress in addressing retinal degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other primary diseases of vision. And the hope is that the discoveries made here will have an impact globally. One of the aspects of the ongoing studies on samples from the Biobank includes identifying biomarkers for eye diseases based on biogeographic ancestry to understand how the markers are applicable to individuals with various ancestries. “Our physician-scientists are involved in diverse and collaborative research projects that aim to improve treatments for eye diseases and hasten the day when blindness is entirely preventable,” Weinreb says. “The BioBank provides a critical resource that they can draw upon to accelerate the translation of research into treatments.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.