Request for Information: Input to the National Eye Institute Strategic Plan: 2020 Vision for the Future

Key Dates
Release Date: November 15, 2019
Response Date: January 8, 2020

Issued by
National Eye Institute (www.nei.nih.gov)

Purpose
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is establishing its strategic plan, 2020 Vision for the Future, under the auspices of the National Advisory Eye Council. In developing content, NEI will engage scientists, clinicians, patients, vision advocates, and the public. This Notice is a time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) to solicit feedback on research needs, opportunities, and areas of emphasis for vision research over the next five years.

Background
Last year, NEI celebrated the 50th anniversary since being established by Congress established in 1968. NEI highlighted the multitude of scientific and medical advances made by NEI-supported researchers and the impacts on vision care. Charged to protect and preserve the vision of the American people, NEI continues to support basic and clinical research that unravels the mysteries of how vision works at a fundamental level and provides patients with new therapies and standards of care that maintain and improve quality of life.

The NEI 50th Anniversary also provoked the scientific, medical, and patient communities to reflect upon gaps and opportunities in vision research. The NEI Strategic Plan seeks to distill those reflections into a cohesive document that will guide efforts to address those gaps and opportunities over the next five years. Ultimately, NEI stakeholders provide the catalyst for identifying and implementing the goals. To that end, NEI welcomes feedback from stakeholders in the drafting of the strategic plan.
The 21st Century Cures Act requires NIH institutes and centers regularly update their strategic plans.

In 2012,
NEI released its strategic plan, “Vision Research: Needs, Gaps, and Opportunities” (), organized around its six core anatomically focused program areas (Retinal Diseases; Corneal Diseases; Lens and Cataract; Glaucoma and Optic Neuropathies; Strabismus, Amblyopia, and Visual Processing; Low Vision and Blindness Rehabilitation). In developing that plan, NEI created panels of scientists and patient representatives for each program. The plan also sparked the Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI), which sought broad-based community input to identify ideas to transform vision research and care. NEI wants to build on some of the ideas generated through AGI and has proposed cross-cutting Areas of Emphasis to organize thinking for the next NEI strategic plan.

Information Requested
NEI invites the scientific research community, health professionals, patient advocates, professional societies, and the general public to provide input on the following questions:

  • What are the most significant scientific discoveries in vision research since 2012?
  • What new opportunities have been enabled by scientific discoveries or technology development?
  • What needs and gaps in research, health, and quality-of-life should be addressed by the NEI?

To organize the planning process, NEI has proposed the following seven cross-cutting Areas of Emphasis to foster dialogues across traditional vision research disciplines and to best capitalize on recent scientific opportunities. NEI is particularly interested in input relating to these areas of emphasis. However, NEI has always been—and will continue to be—committed to high quality investigator-initiated research and will fund the best science across the broad spectrum of vision research. 

Areas of Emphasis

Visual System in Health and Disease

  • From Genes to Disease Mechanisms—In the past 13 years, vision scientists have discovered many genes through new genomic techniques such as GWAS. The emphasis now is to leverage those discoveries to complete the jigsaw puzzle of disease pathways.
  • Biology and Neuroscience of Vision—Vision neuroscientists study retinal development, organization, optic nerve regrowth, brain processing, or corneal pain. These fields are usually discussed in isolation-NEI proposes emphasizing the commonality of visual neuroscience together.
  • Immune System and Eye Health—While the corneal ocular surface is the front lines against the outside environment, the immune system has been implicated in AMD, glaucoma, cataract, Sjogren’s Disease, optic neuritis and many other ocular pathologies.

Capitalizing on Emerging Fields

  • Regenerative Medicine—NEI is already a leader in stem cells and regenerative medicine with studies ongoing on corneal limbal cells, AMD, and the Audacious Goals Initiative is developing imaging tools, searching for regenerative factors, and creating animal models in both retina and the optic nerve.
  • Data Science—Data science is an emerging field that has rapidly transformed almost all areas of vision research from genomics to imaging to neuroscience. The field includes data management, bioinformatics, analytics and predictive modeling. There are complicated issues such as data sharing, ethics, and methodologies, but the topic also includes identifying and promoting new applications in vision research, especially as basic and clinical research incorporates artificial intelligence.

Preventing Vision Loss and Enhancing Well-being

  • Individual Quality of Life—This area focuses on the patient perspective and encompasses blindness rehabilitation and brain plasticity, assistive devices and independent living, but also depression in patients coping with vision loss.
  • Public Health and Disparities Research—In contrast to the Individual Quality of Life, this aspect of public health will focus on population health, based partly on recommendations from the 2016 NASEM report on Vision. This topic covers epidemiology, health services research, women’s health and minority health disparities research, which the 21st Century Cures Act specifically enjoins NIH to focus on.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary and are meant for information and planning purposes only. Any information submitted in response to this RFI shall not be construed as a solicitation, grant application, cooperative agreement, or obligation on part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or the United States Federal Government. Do not include any proprietary, classified, or sensitive information.

Please respond by January 8, 2020 using the box below:
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Inquiries
Questions about this RFI may be directed to NEIPlan@mail.nih.gov.