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New research center at UC San Diego will look to reverse glaucoma

Hanna and Mark Gleiberman donated $20 million to establish a glaucoma research center at UC San Diego.
(Studio Carre Photographie)

The Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research will be in the upcoming Viterbi Family Vision Research Center.

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A new center coming to UC San Diego, funded by a $20 million donation from philanthropists Hanna and Mark Gleiberman, has its sights set on discovering how to reverse glaucoma.

The Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research will be in the new Viterbi Family Vision Research Center on the La Jolla campus, adjacent to and part of the Shiley Eye Institute, according to Shiley director Dr. Robert Weinreb.

Mark Gleiberman has been diagnosed with glaucoma and receives ongoing care from Weinreb.

The Viterbi Center’s groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for February, Weinreb said, with move-in estimated within two years.

“In the meantime, we will be recruiting faculty [and] initiating the research,” he said.

Weinreb, a professor of ophthalmology and holder of the Morris Gleich Chair in Glaucoma at UC San Diego, will oversee the Gleiberman Center.

“The plan is to recruit new faculty to join the existing team and to expand the programs to achieve our goals,” he said.

Those goals include reversing glaucoma, which he said is the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness. “[It] afflicts as many as 100 million individuals worldwide, including about 4 million Americans,” Weinreb said.

Dr. Robert Weinreb will direct the new Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research at UC San Diego in La Jolla.
Dr. Robert Weinreb will direct the new Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research at UC San Diego in La Jolla.
(UC San Diego)

Current glaucoma therapies “are directed at lowering eye pressure,” Weinreb said, which prevents worsening of the disease.

He said the Gleiberman Center will work to “develop an innovative strategy that will reverse ... vision loss and glaucoma.”

Weinreb said research will focus on protecting the optic nerve, as damage to the nerve causes glaucoma.

“It’s never been done,” he said.

Weinreb said the Gleibermans’ “remarkable” donation will help “exploit technological and laboratory advances with cell-based therapies and gene therapies to possibly regenerate the optic nerve” or protect it from ongoing injury.

“In addition, we hope to restore the health of the nerve cells known as retinal ganglion cells,” he said.

“To focus on restoring vision ... is really a privilege.”

He said he’s most excited about building “a multidisciplinary team that includes existing scientists within the Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology and UCSD and adding … individuals who will complement [them].”

Xiang-Dong Fu says he was forced to resign after UC San Diego investigated his ties to Chinese researchers, part of a controversial initiative that some say unfairly scrutinized Chinese professors at American universities.

Weinreb said glaucoma is more prevalent than most people realize and is not detectable by a patient until “late in the course of disease,” meaning people don’t seek care until glaucoma is “quite advanced.”

He urged anyone older than 60 or people with a family history of glaucoma to have annual eye exams.

In addition to establishing the new center, the Gleibermans’ gift will create three new endowed chairs — Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Glaucoma Research I, II and III — to support the recruitment of vision scientists to the research team.

Last year, the Gleibermans helped establish the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Head and Neck Cancer Center at UCSD Health’s Moores Cancer Center following Hanna’s treatment for tongue cancer.

The couple also helped establish the Homelessness Hub at UCSD, the region’s first large-scale, university-based resource on homelessness. Additionally, they have supported the Triton Food Pantry, Triton Athletics and UC San Diego Hillel, among other areas of the campus.

Mark Gleiberman serves on the UCSD Foundation board of trustees and the Real Estate and Development Advisory Board and formerly was on the UCSD Athletic Board. Hanna Gleiberman is a trustee of La Jolla Playhouse. ◆