Monday, February 24, 2020

Lions Club donation supports vision research and training at USA College of Medicine

Robert Barrington, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, reviews data with medical student Brandon Rivers.
University of South Alabama researchers recently received funding from local Lions Clubs that will be used to buy equipment for conducting high-quality vision research and training the next generation of vision scientists.

A check for $25,000 was presented by board members of the USA Lions Eye Research Institute, to the USA College of Medicine eye research team, led by Robert Barrington, Ph.D., at a meeting in February.

Barrington, a member of the University Lions Club and associate professor of microbiology at the USA College of Medicine, said the gathering provided an opportunity to showcase the impact of the support from area Lions Clubs.

The University Lions Club, a part of Lions Clubs International, is a civic organization that supports projects focusing on diabetes and vision.

During the meeting, area Lions Club members heard from three USA researchers, recent Ph.D. graduate student Steffani Fitzpatrick, and medical students Brandon Rivers and Jack Friend, who shared research project presentations with the group. Lions Club members also toured the research facilities that house instrumentation purchased for the College of Medicine through grants from the Lions Club International Foundation.

Barrington said the most recent donation will contribute to the purchase of another instrument, 10x Genomics, to facilitate cutting-edge eye research at USA.

“The instrument allows for identification of gene signatures for every individual cell analyzed,” he said. “In particular, it is being implemented by the cancer research community to identify responder versus non-responder patients to immunotherapies. We will employ the technology to understand functional roles of diverse sets of immune cells to intracorneal HSV-1 infection.”

Barrington’s lab studies infectious blindness caused by herpes virus, the leading cause of infectious blindness in the developed world.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the USA Lions Eye Research Institute, Barrington said. Since 1990, this group has provided approximately $370,000 in direct funds for eye research. They've also been essential in bringing cutting-edge technologies to the University of South Alabama College of Medicine by sponsoring matching grants through Lions Club International.

All told, they've helped raise more than $1 million through direct donations and instrumentation grants for basic science eye research at the USA College of Medicine.

“Their donations have supported more than 20 Ph.D. and M.D. student trainees,” Barrington said, “and helped support more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It's a rather remarkable example of how civic-minded individuals can impact basic science efforts.”

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