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$20 Million Gift to UC San Diego Funds Research to Reverse Glaucoma

With a personal connection to glaucoma, Hanna and Mark Gleiberman establish a new center and three endowed chairs to build upon the university’s renowned vision institute

Hanna and Mark Gleiberman

Hanna and Mark Gleiberman have committed $20 million to establish the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research at UC San Diego. Photo credit: Shannon Henry at Studio Carre Photographie

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Researchers at the University of California San Diego may soon be closer to finding ways to reverse the effects of glaucoma, thanks to $20 million in support from Hanna and Mark Gleiberman. The gift will establish the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research at UC San Diego.

The center will be housed within the Viterbi Family Vision Research Center at UC San Diego. The funds are designated to stimulate research on advanced glaucoma, with the ultimate goal of protecting and restoring the vision of those who suffer from the condition.

As someone who was diagnosed with glaucoma, Mark Gleiberman understands the need and urgency to find a cure. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve and can progressively lead to blindness. Gleiberman receives ongoing care from Robert N. Weinreb, MD, chair and Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology, director of the Shiley Eye Institute and holder of the Morris Gleich, MD, Chair in Glaucoma at UC San Diego.

“We have seen the incredible work that is being done at the Shiley Eye Institute, both from a clinical and research perspective. I believe that the glaucoma team at Shiley, led by Dr. Weinreb, is truly the top glaucoma team in the world,” said Gleiberman, who is founder and CEO of MG Properties. “Hanna and I hope that our donation will greatly assist in accelerating and enhancing the groundbreaking work already being done.”

In addition to establishing the new center, the Gleibermans’ gift will create three new endowed chairs — Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Glaucoma Research I, II and III — to support the recruitment of exceptional vision scientists to the research team.  

“UC San Diego has an established history as one of the nation’s top places for vision care and research, and this gift will serve to bolster even further the leading-edge work taking place to combat glaucoma,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “We are grateful to Hanna and Mark Gleiberman for their visionary support of this new center, which follows their past generous support to combat cancer and address societal issues such as homelessness.”

In recognition of their dedicated support of the campus, the Gleibermans were honored with the 2021 Chancellor’s Medal, one of the highest honors given by UC San Diego to recognize exceptional service in support of the university’s mission.

Finding a cure for glaucoma

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over 60 years of age, but it can affect patients of all ages, including children. The progressive eye disease affects more than 3 million people in the United States and 70 million individuals worldwide.

The Gleibermans’ donation will bolster efforts to find effective ways of restoring vision to glaucoma patients in whom optic nerve damage has already occurred. Researchers will test various potential treatments, including utilizing stem cells to promote optic nerve regeneration. Investigators will also look at how to protect patients’ existing vision by identifying and rescuing retinal ganglion cells that have not yet died due to the condition.

Robert N. Weinreb, MD
Robert N. Weinreb, MD

“We are so grateful to Hanna and Mark Gleiberman for making this generous investment,” said Weinreb, who will serve as the principal investigator. “Our team plans to consider therapeutic approaches that will help achieve the goal to restore the vision of those who suffer from glaucoma.”

According to Weinreb, the gift will help UC San Diego grow the team of physician-scientists and staff members focused on glaucoma research with the goal of accelerating the delivery of laboratory discoveries to patients in the clinical setting. The three new endowed chairs will support the recruitment of top researchers in the field. The chairs will also receive matching funds from the UC San Diego Chancellor’s Endowed Chair and Faculty Fellowship Challenge.

“We understand that to regenerate the optic nerve damage which has already occurred is no small task, and likely to be a research project taking many years,” said Gleiberman. “But we believe that the Shiley Eye Institute team is very well equipped to take this on with results which can potentially benefit millions of people worldwide.” 

Making a difference

With their philanthropic giving, the Gleibermans have made a significant impact that spans the UC San Diego campus — and beyond. In 2021, they established the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Head and Neck Cancer Center at Moores Cancer Center following a period of time when Hanna was treated for tongue cancer at UC San Diego Health.

“We choose to support causes which we have a connection with, be it the Gleiberman Head and Neck Cancer Center at UC San Diego, after Hanna‘s treatments, or in the case of the glaucoma research center, with my experience with the disease,” said Gleiberman. “It is important for us to team up with the top physician-scientists in the world to address medical issues that will improve the quality of life for many people.”

The couple’s impact also extends beyond medical research and care. Earlier this year, they helped establish the Homelessness Hub at UC San Diego, the region’s first large-scale, university-based resource on homelessness. They have also supported the Triton Food Pantry, Triton Athletics and UC San Diego Hillel, among other areas of campus.

Mark Gleiberman serves on the UC San Diego Foundation Board of Trustees, Real Estate and Development Advisory Board of Directors and was formerly on the UC San Diego Athletic Board. Hanna Gleiberman serves as a trustee of the La Jolla Playhouse. In the community, their support to the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center allowed for the development of San Diego’s first fully accessible playground. The couple is also dedicated to supporting causes which help foster children.

“Our goal is to positively impact as many individuals as we can,” said Hanna Gleiberman. “We try hard to work with teams and organizations that can truly make a difference in improving the lives of many others.”

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