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AGI History and Guidance

“It would be fantastic if…”

The AGI began with the Audacious Goals Challenge, a prize competition that challenged participants to imagine the greatest achievement for vision research during the next 10-15 years. The challenge attracted more than 450 innovative proposals from around the world. The NEI consolidated the proposals into six themes, which were further explored by leading scientists at the Audacious Goals Development Meeting. In consultation with the National Advisory Eye Council, the NEI chose to pursue the goal of restoring vision through the regeneration of neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system, specifically targeting the photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells.

The NEI Audacious Goals Initiative: Bold research to restore vision

Did you know some of the common eye diseases involve damage to the retina and optic nerve? The National Eye Institute’s Audacious Goal Initiative aims to restore vision in these diseases. To learn more about how the eye works and what the AGI has in store, watch our new 3D animation.

AGI steering committee

The AGI Steering Committee plots the scientific trajectory of the AGI. Consisting of three to five leading researchers, the steering committee is responsible for identifying knowledge gaps and the scientific expertise needed to bridge them. The steering committee currently comprises five members:

Len Levin

Leonard Levin, M.D., Ph.D., is a tenured professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University. A physician-scientist, he conducts research related to optic nerve diseases and related disorders.

Mike Dyer

Michael A. Dyer, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He studies factors that influence and coordinate early cellular development. His objective is to understand the causes of eye cancers such as retinoblastoma and degenerative eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.

Clive Svendsen

Clive Svendsen, Ph.D., is the Kerry and Simone Vickar Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Regenerative Medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute. He leads a group that stem cells to study and model neurodegenerative diseases and potential treatments. 

Russ VanGelder

Russ VanGelder, M.D., Ph.D., is the Boyd K. Bucey Memorial Chair and professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at University of Washington. His lab is investigating the therapeutic potential of synthetic small molecule photoswitches for restoring light sensitivity to degenerated retinas.

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Washington Department of Biological Structure. Her lab studies developmental mechanisms that shape synaptic connectivity in the central nervous system using the retina as a model. 

National Advisory Eye Council

The National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) provides administrative guidance to the NEI. The NAEC consists of 12 recognized leaders in the fields of ophthalmology, optometry, and basic sciences. The NAEC advises the NEI director on AGI funding plans and provides a second level of review on proposals to AGI funding opportunities.

Office of Regenerative Medicine at NEI

The NEI Office of Regenerative Medicine provides logistical support for all AGI-related activities.

Image of Dr. Greenwell

Tom Greenwell, Ph.D., Acting Associate Director of NEI Office of Regenerative Medicine and leads the AGI at NEI. Dr. Greenwell also directs the NEI portfolios on Development & Regeneration. 

AGI Working Group

The AGI Working Group comprises of staff within the Division of Extramural Science Programs and the Division of Extramural Activities, who help draft funding announcements, monitor the progress of research programs, and make recommendations to the AGI Steering Committee, the NAEC, and the NEI Director.

Image of Dr. Anderson

Kathleen Anderson, Ph.D., directs the NEI Division of Extramural Activities and serves as the acting director of the NEI Division of Extramural Science Programs

Donald Everett

Donald F. Everett, M.A., directs the NEI program on collaborative clinical research.

Cheri Wiggs

Cheri L. Wiggs, Ph.D., directs the NEI portfolios on perception and psychophysics, low vision, and blindness rehabilitation.

Sangeeta Bhargava PhD

Sangeeta Bhargava, Ph.D., directs the NEI program on collaborative clinical research and serves as the acting deputy director of the NEI Division of Extramural Programs.

Image of Dr. Fortress

Ashley Fortress, Ph.D., Scientific Review Officer in the NEI Division of Extramural Activities 

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Last updated: December 22, 2022