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Larry I. Benowitz, PhD and Gareth R. Howell, BSc, PhD Awarded Prestigious 2013 Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize

The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has awarded the 2013 Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize to Larry I. Benowitz, PhD, Professor of Surgery and Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Laboratories for Neuroscience Research in Neurosurgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, and to Gareth R. Howell, BSc, PhD, Assistant Professor at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, ME.

The Rudin Glaucoma Prize recognizes the most significant scholarly article on glaucoma published in a peer-reviewed journal in the prior calendar year. Recipients are nominated by their peers, and a winner is chosen by The New York Academy of Medicine’s Lewis Rudin Prize Selection Committee and approved by the NYAM Board of Trustees. The prize was established by Lewis and Jack Rudin, New York builders and philanthropists who recognized the importance of rewarding superior research in glaucoma. Since its inception in 1995, the committee has recognized the outstanding contributions of physicians and scientists working on the challenges of glaucoma and has become a highly respected and acknowledged award.

Traditionally, the Selection Committee selects one winning article, whose author is awarded the $50,000 prize. This year, the Committee was so impressed with both Dr. Howell’s and Dr. Benowitz’s papers that the Rudins generously decided to contribute an additional $50,000 and award the full amount to both researchers.

“For the first time in the history of the Rudin Glaucoma Prize two prizes will be awarded. Each is a truly novel and transformative paper and the culmination of years of research that was done despite the universal feeling that neither could ever be accomplished,” said Dr. David Abramson, Chair of the Lewis Rudin Prize Selection Committee and Chief of Ophthalmic Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Benowitz’s paper, "Full-length axon regeneration in the adult mouse optic nerve and partial recovery of simple visual behaviors," was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. (PNAS).

“Dr. Benowitz’s research demonstrated for the first time that regeneration of the optic nerve (in part or near whole) was possible in adult mice combining techniques developed in his lab at Boston Children’s Hospital and another lab,” Dr. Abramson said. “This now opens the possibility—for the first time—of regaining sight in patients who have lost vision from glaucoma.”

Dr. Benowitz joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1979 and has served as Director of the Laboratory for Neuroscience Research in Neurosurgery at Boston Children’s Hospital since 1990. He is also a visiting professor in Brazil and China. His lab has extensive experience in molecular biology, biochemistry, cell culture, surgery, histology, and animal training and testing. Their research on the molecular underpinnings of axon growth and on promoting central nervous system (CNS) repair has appeared in high-impact journals, and in 2006 Dr. Benowitz was named by Scientific American as one of the 50 leaders of the year in science and technology.

Dr. Howell’s paper, "Radiation treatment inhibits monocyte entry into the optic nerve head and prevents neuronal damage in a mouse model of glaucoma,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Dr. Howell’s research demonstrated that low-dose radiation could prevent damage to the optic nerve by inhibiting monocyte response,” Dr. Abramson said. “This opens a world of possibilities for novel treatments of optic nerve and other nerve damages in humans employing radiation-based and non-radiation-based treatments in a truly novel way.”

The study was performed while Dr. Howell was a Research Scientist at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, working with Howard Hughes Investigator Dr. Simon John. Dr. Howell is now an Assistant Professor at The Jackson Laboratory and is using genetics and genomics approaches to understand neurodegenerative diseases including glaucoma, dementia and traumatic brain injury. Dr. Howell received his PhD from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at The Jackson Laboratory and the University of Sheffield, UK. His honors include the Glaucoma Research Foundation's Shaffer Prize for Innovative Research in 2012.

About the Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize
The Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize of NYAM was established in 1995 in honor of Lewis Rudin, the late New York City real estate developer and founder of the Association for a Better New York. The prize is funded by the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc., with additional support from Jack Rudin, Chairman of the Rudin Management Company. The Rudin Family has a long tradition of service and philanthropy in New York City.

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Posted on February 10, 2014

Contact:
Abigail J. Franklin
Vice President for Development & Communications
The New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
(212) 822-7244
afranklin@nyam.org

 

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Reporters: to arrange interviews with NYAM medical and urban health experts, contact
Abigail J. Franklin, Vice President for Development & Communications

(212) 822-7244 / afranklin@nyam.org

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