Jane E. Fischer leaves gift to support UNMC eye disease research

Iqbal Ahmad, Ph.D.
Iqbal Ahmad, Ph.D.

A $508,000 gift will support retinitis pigmentosa research led by Iqbal Ahmad, Ph.D.

Jane E. Fischer took a personal interest in retinitis pigmentosa. She relayed that her mother suffered from the rare genetic eye disease and expressed a desire that a portion of her estate be dedicated to research leading to a better understanding of the disease.

So, after Jane died Oct. 21, 2022, at the age of 83, her estate attorney contacted Iqbal Ahmad, PhD, a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

After visiting Dr. Ahmad’s lab and learning more about his research, the attorney arranged for a $508,000 gift in late 2023 from Fischer’s living trust to establish the Jane Fischer Regenerative Medicine Research Fund for Retinitis Pigmentosa.

“I’m honored to have played a role in facilitating this generous gift on behalf of Jane Fischer,” attorney Mary Vandenack said. “Retinitis pigmentosa research was of great personal importance to Jane, and I’m pleased her legacy will live on through the work of the UNMC research team.”

Retinitis pigmentosa is a disease that affects the retina and causes its cells, particularly the light-sensitive photoreceptors, to slowly break down over time. The most common early symptom is a loss of night vision, usually starting in childhood. Most people eventually lose most of their sight. The fund will support stem cell research in regenerative medicine overseen and conducted by Dr. Ahmad to further the understanding and treatment of the disease.

“This is really timely funding that comes to the lab, and we are extremely grateful for this,” Dr. Ahmad said. “This is an intractable disease. There is no cure. We’re still in the infancy of understanding this disease comprehensively. Our stem cell-based approach will shed light on the photoreceptor degeneration and possible therapeutic interventions.”

He said Fischer’s gift will provide funding for a postdoctoral researcher. Data collected from the team’s research will be published as part of an effort to secure additional funding through the National Eye Institute.

“The UNMC Department of Ophthalmology is privileged to establish the Jane Fischer Regenerative Medicine Research Fund for Retinitis Pigmentosa in honor of Jane Fischer,” said Ronald R. Krueger, MD, MSE, McGaw Memorial Professor, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the Stanley M. Truhlsen Eye Institute. “Her kind support will allow Dr. Ahmad to pursue investigation using stem cell-based techniques to specifically address the possible causes and potential solutions to this diverse and blinding form of inherited retinal disease.”

Fischer, who grew up as an only child in Valley, Nebraska, graduated from Valley High School in 1957. According to her attorney, she worked in banking for most of her career. She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Orpha Fischer of Elkhorn.

Fischer’s gift was made through the University of Nebraska Foundation and supports Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future. The campaign is a historic effort to encourage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support University of Nebraska students, faculty, academic and clinical programs and research to address the needs of the state. The campaign seeks funds to support research and innovation that bring solutions and discoveries to the state and improve outcomes for Nebraskans.

About the University of Nebraska Medical Center

As Nebraska’s only public academic health science center, the University of Nebraska Medical Center enrolls more than 4,500 students across six colleges, two institutes and a graduate studies program. Its mission is to create a healthier future for Nebraskans through premier education, research and clinical care, but its impact – rooted in a culture of collaboration, big ideas and public-private partnerships – goes far beyond, in areas that include infectious diseases, rural health, cancer research and treatments, global health security, and simulation and experiential learning technologies.

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. During the most recent fiscal year, 58,072 donors supported the University of Nebraska, and a record $354.5 million in new funds was committed to aid UNK, UNL, UNO, NCTA and UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine. The foundation raises more than $7 for every $1 spent. Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future is its current campaign with a goal to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at OnlyinNebraska.org.

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