Gareth Howell receives Glaucoma Research Foundation award

Bar Harbor, Maine—The Glaucoma Research Foundation has awarded Jackson Laboratory Assistant Professor Gareth Howell, Ph.D., with the 2013 Shaffer Prize for Innovative Glaucoma Research. 

Howell received the award from Thomas M. Brunner, president and CEO of the Glaucoma Research Foundation, at the annual Catalyst for a Cure Benefit Gala at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on Jan. 31. 

"Funding new ideas is critical to broadening our understanding of glaucoma and finding better treatments," Brunner said at the presentation ceremony. "Our Shaffer Grants for Innovative Glaucoma Research allow us to underwrite groundbreaking projects in laboratories around the world to broaden our understanding of glaucoma and explore new therapies." 

"Each year, we ask our Scientific Advisory Committee to select the most promising research grant from those awarded in that year," Brunner continued. "Dr. Gareth Howell, from the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine, was selected to receive the 2013 Shaffer Prize for his research on genetic prevention of glaucoma." 

Howell was recognized for his study investigating the mechanism by which a spontaneous genetic mutation prevents retinal ganglion cell death in glaucoma. 

Glaucoma is a complex disease characterized by the loss of the output nerve cells in the retina known as retinal ganglion cells, Howell explains. While working as a research scientist in the laboratory of Jackson Professor Simon W.M. John, Ph.D., Howell and Research Assistant Katharine Harmon investigated the multiple events that occur prior to the demise of these cells. "Using funds kindly provided by the Glaucoma Research Foundation, we have adopted a new strategy using a mouse model of glaucoma that has been genetically modified to prevent loss of nerve cells," Howell says. 

To develop improved and new therapies for human glaucoma, Howell notes, "it will be important to boost beneficial responses and lessen or inhibit damaging events."

Now a principal investigator with his own lab, Howell is continuing to explore the fundamental processes involved in the initiation and early propagation of glaucoma, as well as those of other age-related neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease and non-Alzheimer's dementia.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,450. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.