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BrightFocus Award Winners

Drs. Karthik Shekhar and Shubham Maurya.
Congratulations, Drs. Karthik Shekhar and Shubham Maurya!

We are happy to announce that two of our Vision Science community members, Assistant Professor Karthik Shekhar, PhD and postdoctoral scholar Dr. Shubham Maurya, have each received the BrightFocus Foundation National Glaucoma Research Award for their proposals! 

Dr. Shekhar’s proposal was awarded a grant of $200,000 for 2 years. Additionally, Dr. Shekhar was awarded the Dr. Douglas H. Johnson Award, which is presented annually to the top-rated proposal in the National Glaucoma Research program. His project aims to develop a new approach rooted in spatial transcriptomics to generate a high resolution map of the retinal surface that will allow one to study the molecular states of all cell types, including retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) as well as their neighbors. By applying this technology to a mouse model of glaucoma, Dr. Shekhar’s team hopes to discover cell-intrinsic as well as cell-extrinsic transcriptomic changes underlying RGC degeneration, hopefully identifying promising molecular targets for neuroprotection. The technology developed will also be useful to study other neurodegeneration models.  

“Over the past few years, my co-workers and I have used single-cell genomic tools to study the molecular diversity of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). With support from the BrightFocus foundation, we hope to apply these tools to gain new insight into molecular changes underlying their death in glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.”  
– Dr. Karthik Shekhar

Dr. Maurya’s project was awarded a grant of $150,000 for two years by the BrightFocus Foundation as well as the Thomas R. Lee Award for National Glaucoma Research. This award is presented annually to top-scoring Fellowship recipients that make significant contributions to Mr. Lee’s vision for a world without glaucoma. Dr. Maurya is a member of the Gronert lab, which previously discovered a novel approach to prevent retinal cell death in rodents with glaucoma, using small molecule lipid mediators. These lipid mediators have bioactions in modulating the functions of a resident immune cell type in the retina, namely microglia. The aim of this research project is to investigate how lipid mediators regulate microglia in the progression of glaucoma, using a combination of techniques such as single-cell transcriptomics, automated morphometric analysis, and lipidomics. The ultimate goal is to identify potential ways to halt or prevent the disease.

“I am grateful for the grant from BrightFocus Foundation, which allows us to delve deeper into the mechanisms of glaucoma and explore novel treatment targets. Our research has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of microglia reactivity and LXB4 regulation, which could lead to the development of more effective therapies for patients suffering from glaucoma.” 
– Dr. Shubham Maurya