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This article was published on Aug. 12, 2013 on the website of Philanthropy News Digest, a service of The Foundation Center:

University of Iowa Receives $25 Million Gift for Vision Research

The University of Iowa has announced a five-year, $25 million commitment from Las Vegas businessman Stephen A. Wynn in support of its Institute for Vision Research.

The funds will be used to accelerate progress toward finding cures for rare, inherited retinal diseases. In recognition of the gift, the institute, which is working to develop gene and stem cell therapies that could restore vision, will be renamed the Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research, the Iowa Gazette reports.

"As a person who knows firsthand what it is like to lose vision from a rare inherited eye disease, I want to do everything I can to help others who are similarly affected keep the vision they have and eventually get back what they have lost," said Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, Limited, who has retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes night blindness and weakness in peripheral vision. "The army of clinicians and scientists at the University of Iowa's Institute for Vision Research have uncovered many of the secrets of the genome and are now on the cusp of applying them in the clinic. I never dreamed that I would witness such breakthroughs in my lifetime, but the breakthroughs are now at hand."

Gene replacement therapies have already begun for certain inherited eye diseases, Edwin Stone, the director of the institute, told the Gazette. Earlier this year, UI scientists began conducting gene replacement therapy for a rare inherited eye disease, restoring a missing gene that makes it possible to restore vision to a child, he said.

"Philanthropic support is very important to all aspects of academic medicine, but it is absolutely essential for developing treatments for 'orphan' disorders that occur in a few hundred people or less in the entire country," said Stone. "Mr. Wynn's generous gift will also help us maintain the very valuable collaborative relationships we have developed with other vision scientists around the world."