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Two Major Grants to UB's Ira G. Ross Eye Institute Help it Meet $3 Million Challenge

Release Date: May 23, 2005

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A $225,000 grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and a $220,000 grant from the national organization, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), have helped push the University at Buffalo's new Ira G. Ross Eye Institute over goal in meeting a $3 million challenge.

While the new institute needs a total of $8 million to rehabilitate and equip its clinical center at 1176 Main St. and hire more faculty and staff, its recent focus has been on meeting the challenge grant given by Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted Ross, M.D. Olmsted Ross is a noted ophthalmologist and 1939 alumna of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Adding these two grants and Olmsted Ross' matching grant to the prior donations, the institute's fund-raising total now stands at $6.6 million.

"I am delighted with our success to date, although I never doubted our ability to raise the money," said Olmsted Ross. "I am excited by the momentum that we are gaining toward our final goal."

The grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation will assist with purchase of technology and equipment. Noting that they welcome the opportunity to serve science and the community, the trustees of the foundation said they "are encouraged by the innovative approach and the collaborative spirit of those involved that will make this an institute of international prominence."

The RPB grant brings national recognition to the institute, which will have research facilities on the UB South (Main Street) Campus.

"Research to Prevent Blindness is a thoughtful investor in the ophthalmic research community, guided by a prominent scientific review committee," said James D. Reynolds, M.D., professor and chair in the Department of Ophthalmology in the UB medical school. "To be a recipient of one of their grants is a great honor."

The RPB grant will fund research done by new UB faculty hired to work in the institute, as well as help cover the costs of hiring technicians and post-doctoral students.

"We have a high degree of confidence in the established strengths and future potential of the UB Department of Ophthalmology, as evidenced by the awarding of our Challenge Grant," said Jim Romano, chief operating officer of RPB. "We eagerly await reports of their contributions to vision research."

Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., interim UB vice president for health affairs and interim dean of the UB medical school, said the grants demonstrate the eye institute's promise and the quality of its investigators and their research potential.

"A previous grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation has enabled us to bring in renowned faculty for the new eye institute," he said. "Now the Margaret L. Wendt and RPB grants, through equipment and salary support, will ensure that those new faculty have the means to pursue better vision."

The institute already has hired Federico Gonzalez-Fernandez, M.D., an ocular pathologist, and John Sullivan, M.D., Ph.D., who specializes in retinal physiology and disease. The plans are to add three more new scientists, one each in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The institute, established in December 2003, combines research and eye care. "It's a nationally unique model," Reynolds said. "To our knowledge it's the first time an academic institution has paired up with a social services agency," he added, referring to the Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D., Center for the Visually Impaired located adjacent to the institute site on Main Street.

The Ira G. Ross Eye Institute, named for the late husband of Olmsted Ross, will diagnose and treat eye diseases, as well as provide prevention and rehabilitation services. Additionally, it will run education programs for both physicians and members of the Western New York community.

Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to medical institutions throughout the United States for research into all blinding eye diseases. For information on RPB, RPB-funded research, eye disorders and the RPB Grants Program, go to .

The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation is a private, philanthropic organization that focuses its work in Western New York and is devoted to the development of a stronger Western New York community.