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National Eye Institute

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Title: National Eye Institute  
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National Eye Institute

National Eye Institute
National Eye Institute logo
Abbreviation NEI
Formation 1968
Type U.S. government agency
Legal status Active
Headquarters Bethesda, Maryland
Region served
 United States
Official language
Dr. Paul A Sieving
Parent organization
National Institutes of Health
Affiliations United States Public Health Service
Website .gov.nih.neiwww

The National Eye Institute (NEI) was established in 1968 and is located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NEI is one of 27 institutes and centers of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of NEI is to prolong and protect the vision of the American people. The NEI conducts and performs research into treating and preventing diseases affecting the eye or vision.


  • History 1
  • Organizational structure 2
  • Research priorities 3
  • Research achievements 4
    • The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 4.1
    • Comparison of Age-Related Treatment Trial 4.2
    • Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study 4.3
    • The Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study 4.4
  • Notes and references 5
  • External links 6


old NEI logo
Retired NEI logo

Before the NEI was established, primary responsibility for vision research at NIH was done by the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Blindness (NINDB)[1] (which is now known as the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke). NINDB was established in 1950, after President Harry S. Truman signed the Omnibus Medical Research Act.[1] The bill agreed to establish new separate institutes within NIH.[2] This marked the beginning of vision research at a federal level.

Dr. Carl Kupfer
Image of Dr. Carl Kupfer By the National Eye Institute

Organizing, structuring, and separating vision and neurological research was a challenge at NINDB. NIH did its best to provide an equal budget plan for separate funding for vision research within NINDB. But there was not enough support and staff to handle more projects then what they were already undertaking. This led to the vision research program losing sufficient funding compared to the neurological research program.[1] Some prominent members within the vision research community were not satisfied with how NINDB was operating.[1] They did not approve of combining the two subjects of vision and neurological research together. This prompted some leading academic ophthalmologists and vision community supporters which included Bernard Becker, David Cogan, Edward Maumenee, Michael Hogan, John McLean, Frank Newell, Jules Stein, and Frank Winter to campaign for a separate institute that solely focused on vision research.[1]

The group of supporters had rallied together to begin an effort to promote and advocate for a separate vision institute at NIH. They overcame obstacles and their efforts were finally rewarded. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating the National Eye Institute, to be a part of the National Institutes of Health. The National Eye Institute (NEI) was established on August 16, 1968.[2] This meant that the NEI would be the country’s first civilian governmental body that focused on visual diseases and disorders in vision research.[2]

The first director of NEI was Dr. Carl Kupfer. He was appointed on January 11, 1970.[3] Dr. Kupfer wanted to establish and mold NEI into the lead agency in vision research. He wanted to make sure that the vision research program expanded and was focused on the entire visual system and not just part of it.[1] During the first 14 years the institute succeeded in attracting some noted researchers and doctors and increasing the number of researchers in vision science on its intramural staff. In 1983 NEI received national recognition for its leadership in both clinical ophthalmology and research on eye diseases and disorders.[2]

Organizational structure

  • Office of the Director:[4]
    • Dr. Paul A Sieving (Director)
    • Dr. Belinda Seto (Deputy Director)
    • Brian Trent (Associate Director for Management)
      • Division of Intramural Research: Dr. Sheldon S Miller (Scientific Director)
      • Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications: Dr. Frederick L Ferris III (Director)
      • Division of Extramural Research: Dr. Michael A. Steinmetz (Acting Director)

Research priorities

The NEI strives to be inclusive by requesting input from the community of vision researchers as well as professional and patient advocacy organizations. NEI planning activities are conducted under the auspices of the National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC), a committee of clinicians, researchers, patients and stakeholders that advises the Institute on funding decisions, initiatives, and strategic planning.[5]

The NEI recognizes that new ideas and concepts are constantly emerging, and that the main engine for scientific discovery is investigator-initiated research. The most important priority is to support the highest quality research that will help achieve the mission of the NEI.[5]

Some of the areas of interest include, retinal diseases, corneal diseases, lens and cataract, glaucoma and optic neuropathies, strabismus, amblyopia, and visual processing, and low vision and blindness rehabilitation.[5]

Research achievements

NEI supported research has contributed to visual well-being of the world and has advanced our knowledge of how the eye functions in health and disease. Some of the research supported by the NEI is:

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was a randomized clinical trial study that showed the combination of high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and its associated vision loss. This combination isn’t a cure or treatment for AMD. The specific daily amounts of antioxidants and zinc used in the study were – 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of vitamin E, 15 milligrams of beta-carotene (equivalent to 25,000 International Units of vitamin A), 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide, and 2 milligrams of copper as cupric oxide.[6]

Comparison of Age-Related Treatment Trial

The Comparison of Age-Related Treatment Trial: Lucentis-Avastin (CATT) study was a two-year multicenter clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of the two current treatments used for AMD. The results of the study concluded that both Lucentis and Avastin were equally effective in treating and improving vision, whether it was used monthly or on as needed basis.[7][8]

Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study

A multicenter, randomized clinical trial that treating clinically significant macular edema (CSME) with focal argon laser photocoagulation reduced the risk of additional vision loss and aspirin showed no benefit in delaying or reducing the onset or severity of retinopathy. Likewise, aspirin did not increase the risk for development of retinopathy or the progression of retinopathy.[9]

The Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study

The Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS) is designed to provide a comprehensive assessment of the long-range outcomes of medical and surgical management in advanced glaucoma. The study uses visual function status to compare two intervention sequences in managing the disease.[10]

After seven years of follow-up on these patients enrolled in the AGIS, results revealed that blacks and whites differed in the way they benefited from the two treatment programs. Based on the study results, it is recommended that black patients with advanced glaucoma begin a treatment program that starts with laser surgery, which is consistent with current medical practice. In contrast, white patients with advanced glaucoma who have no life-threatening health problems should begin a treatment program that starts with trabeculectomy. This recommendation is inconsistent with current medical practice.[11]

Because glaucoma is a lifelong disease, long-term information is important. The AGIS patients will continue to be followed for up to four more years.[11]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f Kupfer, Carl; McManus, Edward H.; Berlage, Nancy (2009). History of the National Eye Institute: 1968-2000. National Eye Institute.
  2. ^ a b c d Harris, RR (1985). “A Brief History of the National Eye Institute”. Government Publications Review 12 (5): 427-48.PMID 11617010.
  3. ^ NIH Almanac (
  4. ^ NEI Congressional Justification FY 2012 (
  5. ^ a b c NEI Strategic Plan
  6. ^ The Age-Related Eye Disease Research Group: a randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. AREDS Report No. 8. Arch Ophthalmol 2001; 119:1417-36.PMID 11594942
  7. ^ Martin DF, Maguire MG, Fine SL, Ying GS, Jaffe GJ, Grunwald JE, Toth C, Redford M, Ferris FL 3rd, Comparison of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials (CATT) Research Group Writing Committee. Ranibizumab and Bevacizumab for Treatment of Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Two-Year Results. Ophthalmology 2012; 119:1388-98.PMID 22555112
  8. ^ CATT Research Group, Martin DF, Maguire MG, Ying GS, Grunwald JE, Fine SL, Jaffe GJ. Ranibizumab and Bevacizumab for Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:1897-908.PMID 21526923
  9. ^ Chew EY, Klein ML, Murphy RP, et. Al. Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study Research Group: Effects of aspirin on preretinal hemorrhage in patients with diabetes mellitus. ETDRS Report No 20. Arch Ophthalmol 1995; 113:52-5.PMID 7826294
  10. ^ AGIS Investigators: Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS): 3. Baseline charasteristics of black and white patients. Ophthalmology 1998; 105:1137-45.PMID 9663214
  11. ^ a b AGIS Investigators: Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS): 4. Comparison of treatment outcomes within race: 7-yr results. Ophthalmology 1998;105:1146-64.PMID 9663215

External links

  • NEI Website
  • NEI Health Information Page
  • NEI Strategic Plan
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