About the SCTM

Breaking New Ground

Traditionally, developing a new drug therapy costs approximately $2.7 billion on average, with the process taking a decade or more. As a result, traditional drug development suffers from significant inertia that is detrimental to patients and their care providers.

The SCTM was founded to bypass this traditional model and make drug development faster and more cost-effective. To do so, the SCTM integrates all aspects essential to drug development, including basic science research and an ongoing clinical study.

Better Tools

Donor and Institutional Funds

In a time of inadequate federal funding, the Moran Eye Center and individuals, corporations, and foundations provide financial support to attract top researchers and speed up their work. The SCTM is named in honor of Sharon Eccles Steele, who pledged $9 million to support its mission as part of a larger fundraising campaign supported by many generous donors.

Combined Expert Knowledge

The SCTM relies on a team of talented scientists seeking to understand the molecular mechanisms causing AMD and driving its progression. As part of University of Utah Health, the SCTM also brings together national and international scientists and clinicians from multiple disciplines to develop effective clinical testing and treatments

Resources include access to the Utah Population Database (UPDB), a one-of-a-kind resource that contains genealogical, public health, medical, and environmental exposure records for more than 20 million people. The UPDB is one of the world’s richest sources of data that supports health and genetic research.

One of the World’s Largest Genetic Patient Studies

The SCTM clinical study has enrolled over 4,800 people with and without AMD or a family history of the disease and has collected more than 60,000 DNA samples from other studies. Researchers use the data to understand more fully the underlying genetic and biological bases of AMD, and to identify potential candidates for future therapies developed by the SCTM.

Donated Eye Tissue

Since no other organism has age-related macular degeneration (AMD), researchers must work with study subjects and donated human tissue. Dr. Hageman began collecting human eye donations in 1987 to examine the biology of AMD. Today, his repository includes more than 8,500 pairs of eyes, the largest in the world dedicated to the study of normal and diseased retinal tissue. Working in partnership with the Utah Lions Eye Bank, SCTM eye tissue staff members, directed by Lisa Nichols, are on call 24 hours a day, every day, to receive and process donated human eye tissue.

An image of human retina tissue layers.

Sophisticated Image Analysis

The Utah Retinal Reading Center (UREAD), directed by Steffen Schmitz-Valckenberg, MD, applies rigorous standards to quantify and analyze retinal images, with the goal of assessing the effect of therapeutic intervention on ocular diseases. UREAD assists the SCTM in identifying clinical markers of AMD that are associated with disease progression, and that may be used in future clinical trials.