Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Anatomy/Cell Biology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Kresge Eye Institute, has been granted the William & Mary Greve Special Scholar Award from Research to Prevent Blindness.
Research to Prevent Blindness is a leading voluntary health organization supporting research directed at the prevention, treatment or eradication of diseases that threaten vision.
The $60,000 award is intended to help Dr. Kumar pursue promising scientific leads and explore opportunities for which other funds are not readily available.
"I am highly honored to receive this award and appreciate the RPB scientific advisory panel's enthusiasm for my proposal," Dr. Kumar said. "With this RPB support, we will test the idea of using bacteriophage (phage) therapy to treat multidrug-resistant bacterial infections."
The research focus of Dr. Kumar's laboratory is studying vision-threatening eye infections due to penetrating eye injury or cataract surgery, the most common eye surgery performed in aging populations in the United States.
"Due to the dramatic growth of an aging population in the U.S., more cataract surgeries are expected to be performed, resulting in a proportional increase in eye infections," Dr. Kumar said. "It becomes very challenging for the physicians when the infecting bugs are antibiotic-resistant, thus there is need to develop new approaches or therapies."
Gary Abrams, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Kresge Eye Institute, said the application of phage therapy to treat bacterial infection in humans has a long history, but has rarely been tested in eye infections. Dr. Kumar's idea to use viral therapy holds new possibilities for treating multidrug-resistant bacterial eye infection, and there is potential for significant clinical impact, he said.