ARVO Foundation Research Catalyst Awards

The ARVO Foundation Research Catalyst Awards are intended for investigators beginning their careers or returning to the workforce after an extended leave. The goal of this award is to support an initial research project for an investigator with a superb research idea. The award was established in 2023 and is generously funded by the ARVO Foundation.

Two research awards of $30,000 each will be granted to:

  • a recipient within the United States
  • a recipient outside the United States

Research projects must be completed within two years.


Specific eligibility criteria include:

  • Applicant must be either, (A) an investigator within the first three years of their primary academic appointment, or (B) an investigator who is returning to the workforce after at least a year away from an active research career.
  • Applicant must identify a mentor or senior colleague that will be involved in the project to ensure a level of success.
  • Applicant must not have an active NIH R-series grant or equivalent.
  • Applicants may only submit one application per cycle. Award recipients must wait three years to apply with a new proposal. Unsuccessful applicants may reapply in the next cycle.
  • ARVO and ARVO Foundation Officers, Board members and ARVO Foundation Awards Committee members are not eligible to apply for or be nominated for an award nor may they supply letters of support during their terms.
Application process

Applications are accepted via online application. The online form must be completed by the applicant. The online application requires the following information, forms and documents:

  • Applicant Information: Complete all required fields. Please include a biosketch when applying.

  • Mentor Information: Enter information on the mentor you will be consulting with on this project.

  • Project Information:

    • Title of Project

    • Goal: Statement of expected project outcome(s); include a statement of how results could lead to clinical impacts and/or subsequent research funding.

    • Project significance
    • Design/methodology
    • Research Capacity Assessment: Include a statement that you will have permission from the institution(s) to allot the required time and resources to execute the project.
    • Project Timeline: The project period must commence within six months of notification of the award and be completed within two years of the start date.
    • Budget: an itemized budget must be included. Awarded funds may not be used for institutional overhead or administrative fees.
  • Explain how you will use any existing infrastructure available to you to ensure the project will succeed.
  • Describe your relationship with the identified mentor or senior colleague. What involvement will that person have in the project and/or your development?
  • Two letters of recommendation: one from within institution; one external (either may be from the identified mentor/colleague)
  • Letter from institution that it will accept funds for use as described in criteria, that the institution is tax-exempt, and agrees not to apply or withhold administrative or indirect fees.

Review and selection process

Applications are reviewed by the ARVO Foundation Awards Committee comprised of internationally recognized experts. The deliberations of the Foundation Awards Committee are confidential and their decision is final.


Applications open on Aug. 1

Applications close on Oct. 1 (11:59pm U.S. Eastern time)

Recipients notified in December

2024 recipients

Research Catalyst Award recipient  - Alyssa LieAlyssa L. Lie, PhD, BOptom
University of Auckland
New Zealand

Alyssa L. Lie is a therapeutically endorsed academic optometrist. Graduating with honors from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, she returned to pursue a PhD following two years in community practice, including a one-month scholarship program at State University of New York College of Optometry. Currently, Alyssa holds joint appointments at the University of Auckland as a lecturer in the School of Optometry and Vision Science and as a research fellow in the Department of Physiology. She also continues clinical practice in a private ophthalmology clinic specializing in glaucoma. Her primary research interest is age-related eye disease, such as presbyopia and cataract, since obtaining her PhD in this field. Her ongoing research includes utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to identify biomarkers that may inform potential preventative and therapeutic strategies for age-related eye disease.


Research Catalyst Award recipient - Tarsis Gesteira FerreiraTarsis Gesteira Ferreira, MSc, PhD
University of Houston
United States

Tarsis Gesteira Ferreira's research is primarily focused on characterizing the structure and function of proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans, and their biosynthetic enzymes. Ferreira's broad background enables him to take a multidisciplinary approach to studying the role of glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycan in development/disease, which includes using computational modeling, molecular docking, molecular dynamics, diverse biochemistry techniques, molecular biology, cell culture, genetically modified mice, and animal models of ocular pathologies. Seven years ago, he co-founded the pharmaceutical start-up Optimvia LLC, a company specialized in enzyme design with a primary focus on improving the yield of heparin/heparan sulfate biosynthetic enzymes for in vitro synthesis of heparin. After the successful partnership of Optimvia LLC with Gingko Bioworks Ferreira decided to return to academia. This transition marked a new chapter in his journey, intertwining his passion for the eye with his expertise in protein engineering and drug design. Currently, Ferreira is dedicated to designing next-generation treatments for ocular diseases, leveraging a rich blend of industry experience and academic knowledge. His journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and illustrates how unconventional paths can lead to success in science and medicine.