Mary M. and Sash A. Spencer Center for vision research established at Stanford

The philanthropic gift creates a center to help accelerate translational research, recruit faculty, and train the next generation of leaders in vision science.

Stanford University has announced the establishment of the new Mary M. and Sash A. Spencer Center for Vision Research thanks to a generous gift pledged by Mary Spencer in honor of her late husband, Sash.

The new center, at the renowned Byers Eye Institute, will support innovative vision research and interdisciplinary collaborations across the Stanford campus.

Sash and Mary Spencer
Courtesy of Mary Spencer

Connecting research to care

The new Mary M. and Sash A. Spencer Center for Vision Research at Stanford is at the heart of an ambitious vision for advancing research and creating new diagnostics and therapeutics that will change patient care. The goal of the center is to develop new cures and treatments for the most challenging eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, which impact the lives of millions of people — often leaving them partially or wholly without sight.

The center will be at the forefront of the search for new diagnostics and therapies, both to prevent vision loss and to restore sight, while offering patients access to the latest research, technologies, clinical trials and treatments. It will build on the Byers Eye Institute’s reputation for innovation and patient-centered care.

Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, said, “We are optimistic that with the establishment of this new center, significant advances in vision science will be translated into improved patient care, transforming the lives of millions suffering from eye disease the world over.” Of Mary Spencer’s gift, he added, “This will create a remarkable legacy for Sash and Mary Spencer for generations to come. We are incredibly grateful for her trust and generosity.”

According to Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, PhD, Stanford’s chair of ophthalmology and director of the new center, “Many diseases of the eye still lack clear and effective methods of prevention, treatment or cure. Although much research is underway, bridging the chasm from the lab to clinical testing and ultimately to proven therapies remains the core challenge to making real progress.”

He added, “Our goal for this new center is to bring together teams of interdisciplinary experts in genetics, imaging, stem cell and neurobiology with leaders in vision science. By harnessing the combined talents and energy available at Stanford and beyond, we can uncover novel therapies and bring them more rapidly to human trials — to real patients — so that others can benefit in the nearer term.”

The center will also work toward the development of new diagnostics and methods to help predict eye diseases before they occur, leading to preventive and more personalized care — the foundation of Stanford Medicine’s focus on precision health.

A legacy of excellence

Mary Spencer, who suffers from the early effects of macular degeneration herself, believes this new center at Stanford will bring the brightest scientists together at the right place to make a lasting impact on the field of vision science.

With the help of her philanthropic commitment, she hopes to witness in her lifetime the discovery of treatments for some of the worst eye diseases and also to create a legacy of excellence that honors her late husband’s memory. Goldberg and the early promise shown by his work using magnetic nanoparticles to promote regenerative therapies for the eye was a major factor in Spencer’s decision to support the establishment of the new research center.

 “I hope that Jeff’s vision for this center will be realized and it will become a place where leading vision scientists from across the country and the world will come together and share their knowledge,” Spencer said.