In the big-money world of funding for biomedical research into high-profile conditions like Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and glaucoma, the Rockville, Md.-based American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF) might seem like small potatoes: Since its inception 21 years ago, AHAF has disbursed only about $35 million in grants for investigations into these three disorders.

But for scientists like Kristine Ann Erickson, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and a research associate at the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary in Boston, AHAF's grant program provides a much-needed opportunity to expand their research.

"I'm trying to define the pharmacology of the outflow system, the system that goes wrong" when glaucoma develops, says Erickson, who is in the midst of a two-year project to study the disease, aided by $25,000 in funding from the foundation. "People don't know how the drugs work. With AHAF, though, there's a possibility of going on...

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