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Fong awarded Disney Award for Research in Amblyopia
Posted July 19, 2023




A biomedical engineering researcher will use recently awarded grant dollars to expand research to improve the lives of individuals who deal with amblyopia, or lazy eye. 


Ming-fai Fong, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, is a recipient of the Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) Walt and Lilly Disney Award for Amblyopia Research to support eye research into amblyopia. The RPB granted Fong the $100,000 grant over a two-year period. 


“I am thrilled to receive this prestigious award and am grateful to the Disney Family and RPB for their generous support for amblyopia research,” Fong says. 


Headshot photo of Ming-fai Fong, Ph.D.

Ming-fai Fong, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering


Fong will use the funds to further explore cells that can offer recovery from amblyopia, a disconnect between the brain and the eye that causes poor vision as the brain favors one eye over the other. As a result, the affected eye may wander. 


Fong, along with researchers from MIT and Dalhousie University, previously discovered that temporary silencing the retina can promote recovery from amblyopia in mice and cats beyond the classical critical period.  


“The RPB Disney Amblyopia Award will allow us to identify the specific cell types in the retina that mediate this remarkable recovery in mice, and hopefully lead to more targeted clinical interventions for amblyopia in humans,” Fong explains. 


Fong’s lab studies how visual experience and deprivation alter the brain from synapses and cells to circuits and systems.  Her research team’s findings help develop pre-clinical interventions for treating visual and neurological disorders, as well as design assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired community. 


The Disney Award was established in 2002 to strengthen and support amblyopia research. To date, the program has given awards to 31 vision scientists in departments of ophthalmology at universities across the country. 


Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled more than $407 million into eye research. As a result, RPB has been identified with nearly every major breakthrough in vision research in that time. For information on RPB’s grants program, listings of RPB institutional and individual grantees, and findings generated by these awards, go to



Kelly Petty   
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering