Maryland Team Wins First Phase of NEI Contest to Create Human Retina

October 6, 2017: By Jon Swedien
Erin Lavik, ScD

Erin Lavik, ScD

A team from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, beat out 12 other entries to win the first phase of a National Eye Institute (NEI) contest to create a living model of the human retina.

The NEI, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced the winner Sept. 28. The honor included a prize of $90 thousand.

The NEI’s 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge (3-D ROC) initiative seeks to design human retinas from stem cells. The submissions were evaluated based on their innovativeness and feasibility, the NEI said.

The winning concept was a proposal to build a retina by screen printing adult neural progenitor-derived retinal neurons in layers that mimic the structure of the human retina. The system is designed to be scalable, efficient, and reproducible, enabling high-throughput screening for drug testing, the NEI said. Erin Lavik, ScD, led the winning team.

The NEI plans to launch a second phase of the contest this fall and to award a combined total of $1 million to teams that demonstrate the functionality of a retina organoid prototype. Further details on the challenge will be provided in an official announcement, NEI said.

NEI also awarded five teams with an honorable mention. They were led by:

–Rebecca Carrier, PhD, Northeastern University, Boston;

–David Gamm, MD, PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison;

–Wei Liu, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York;

–Daniel Pelaez, PhD, University of Miami, Florida;

–Katja Schenke-Layland, PhD, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology, Stuttgart, Germany.

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