Lion’s Club Foundation Donation of $75,000 to Fund Retinal Research Lab

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved a University of Nebraska Medical Center request to establishment a relationship between the Nebraska Lions Foundation and UNMC. The Lions Club International Foundation will donate $75,000 in funding to be used to help create a laboratory for retinal research on the UNMC campus. Further donations will be sought from Nebraska Lions Clubs to help fund the remaining $187,775 needed for the lab. The facility will be called the Nebraska Lions Eye Research Institute, led by David Chacko, M.D., Ph.D., director of UNMC’s retina service, and Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and pharmacology and director of the retina research laboratory.

“What we’re looking at is a facility that will provide the ideal setting to conduct research that could lead to the development of cures for currently untreatable eye diseases,” Dr. Chacko said. “This joint project has tremendous potential.”

UNMC will provide space for the laboratory as well as people, utilities and maintenance. The institute will investigate biological mechanisms and treatments for retinal diseases like retinopathy, which particularly affects diabetics, and macular degeneration. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults, Dr. Chacko said.

In Nebraska, all of the 80,000 residents with diabetes face the possibility of the condition. Statistically, half of all diabetics will develop retinopathy within seven years. “We are looking to create a cutting-edge eye research facility,” said Jim Wilson, Pharm. D., associate professor of pharmacy practice in the UNMC College of Pharmacy and a Lions Club member who is also chairing the Institute’s steering committee.

Dr. Wilson is a past Lions district governor and is on the Lions Eye Bank Board. Dr. Chacko added that the research institute will bring researchers and clinicians together in a unique way that will benefit patients. “The Lions of Nebraska has always been a group that wants to get things done. Their attitude has always been ‘let’s do it’ when we talk about worthwhile projects,” Dr. Wilson said. “They’ve never said no to a real need.” The laboratory is set to open next summer. Besides Dr. Wilson, the steering committee of the Lions Eye Research Institute includes Dr. Chacko and UNMC’s Terry Paulsen, associate hospital director.