The problem: human eye tissue donations are used for more than sight-saving transplants. They are also essential for research and teaching into the eye conditions that the Foundation is working to eradicate. Before 2012 St Paul’s Eye Unit did not have a research eye bank, so anyone who wanted to donate their or their family member’s tissue to medical science could not, and scientists were short of human samples. It is also a misconception that donations from older people are of little use when in fact these donations are a valuable resource for our scientists studying age-related eye diseases.
Our solution: to create the Research Eye Bank, a facility run between St Paul’s and the Department of Eye & Vision Science, which gathers human eye tissue for research purposes. It also gives the families of people who had certain contraindicating conditions at the time of their death the opportunity to donate and to make a difference.
The Foundation’s input: money donated to the Foundation from the Van Geest Foundation funded two staff over a number of years. The staff put in place the necessary ethical and legal safeguards and created the systems to efficiently and safely run an eye bank. It has been providing tissue for essential research ever since. We continue to support the Research Eye Bank beyond the initial pump-priming from the Van Geest Foundation.
Impact: without the initial support from the Van Geest Foundation and the on-going support of the Foundation, the Eye Research Bank probably would not have got off the ground. The initial funding injection helped the team to demonstrate that the Eye Bank was viable.
Without the Foundation’s support to launch the Liverpool Research Eye Bank we would not have been able to perform studies that are vital for our research into the cause and treatments of blinding conditions. The eye bank has enabled numerous projects to extend our research ability, and has contributed to our scientists’ increased international recognition. In addition, the facility has generated interest from research institutions around the globe who want to replicate our set-up.