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Using research to address a global imbalance

Published: 08.08.2023
Stephanie Remke Scientific Officer
Velux Stiftung
Marion Bétizeau Velux Stiftung
Senior Scientific Officer
3 people wearing green scrubs and masks peer into a microscope

Most people affected by visual impairments and blindness live in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). Nonetheless, limited research is targeted on the specific diagnostics, prevention, and treatment methods suitable for use in LMICs. In addition, it is evident that research institutions need to be strengthened to support research in a long-term manner. The ophthalmology program of Velux Stiftung supports biomedical research and the strengthening of institutional research capacities directed towards the reduction of visual impairments and blindness in LMICs.

Velux Stiftung is glad to join the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. We are excited to work together to achieve a world where everyone has access to eye care. Velux Stiftung is a Swiss based foundation supporting innovative and transfer oriented research projects. Research Support is available in four funding areas: Forestry, Daylight Research, Healthy Ageing and Ophthalmology.

Velux Stiftung supports innovative and interdisciplinary research projects that tackle neglected societal challenges in new and uncommon ways. We have impact in mind and our mission is to focus on projects which transfer their discoveries to initiate change and create impact.

Our goals and vision for the ophthalmology program

Over one billion people suffer from blindness or visual impairments. Although the large majority of affected people live in LMICs, the research is lacking. Thus, we took the approach to 1) to strengthen biomedical research capacity in LMICs and, 2) to support innovative and interdisciplinary biomedical research projects on eye diseases in LMICs. It is important to us that the local context is taken into consideration in the setup of the project to allow for acceptance and ensure sustainability. You can find examples of approved projects here.

To increase our leverage, systematic strengthening of research capacity was taken up in the strategy. In our theory of change, we have the following hypothesis: Better managed research entities perform better research. Better research attracts more funding and enables better education of young academics and in turn of medical staff. We envision that this will lead to a higher number of well-trained medical staff and to better provision of eye care.

Motivations for the IAPB membership

As we aim to explore how to influence research capacity, strengthen it in a more systematic way, we are looking to increase our understanding of the eye care sector’s implementation side. This is where IAPB and its members come in. We would especially like to gain insights into what is needed for biomedical research to have an impact on the people affected by visual impairments and blindness. What would be a meaningful geographical focus? Where is the soil most fertile to strengthen research? What is the ideal institutional set-up to ensure the research performed leads to change and impact?

In addition to the contribution to universal access to eye care, we think that being a member of IAPB will open many doors and enable connections with various valuable players in the field to sharpen and challenge our ideas as well as spark new partnerships.

Picture on top: Laser training session – Picture by Prof. Mohammed Abdull, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria.