Through a generous grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the program began as the Beckman Initiative for Macular Research (BIMR). The name was changed in 2016 to honor the memory of Stephen J. Ryan, M.D. Steve Ryan was Dr. Arnold Beckman’s ophthalmologist and friend. Their shared goal of eliminating this debilitating disease inspired the original program.

AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision. Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, or write. (Excerpt from the National Eye Institute’s Facts About Age-related Macular Degeneration).

Dr. Ryan attended a conference of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI), a national effort to advance interdisciplinary research. NAKFI addresses a single topic at each of a series of annual conferences. Dr. Ryan envisioned adapting the NAKFI model to a multi-year effort on a single topic: atrophic age-related macular degeneration. In 2008, Dr. Ryan spoke about macular degeneration at the National Academies Distinctive Voices lecture series. The first BIMR conference was held in 2009.