After he was diagnosed with glaucoma, a neurodegenerative disease that, without treatment, can lead to blindness, Mark Gleiberman had a “vision.” The businessman and philanthropist, with wife, Hanna, donated $20 million to UC San Diego to help fund a research facility to reverse glaucoma.
The Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Center for Glaucoma Research will be part of the new Viterbi Family Center for Vision Research, now taking shape near the acclaimed Shiley Eye Institute in La Jolla, with completion expected by early 2025.
“The goal of the center is to accelerate laboratory discovery that can restore the vision of glaucoma patients,” says Robert Weinreb, MD, the institute’s director and a distinguished professor of ophthalmology at UC San Diego. “And then, it is planned to bring these new therapies from the research laboratory to the patient.” Dedicated clinical research space within the Viterbi Center may also lead to therapies for other eye diseases such as corneal conditions and retinal degeneration. In addition to his many accolades, Weinreb received the Laureate Award in June, the World Glaucoma Association’s highest honor, for his body of work.
Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve and the central visual system, affects an estimated 70 million people worldwide, including 4 million in the United States. “Consisting of 1 million nerve fibers, the optic nerve from each eye sends the visual message from the eye to the brain,” explains Weinreb. “In glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged and there is resulting loss of vision.”
Medical and surgical therapies can lower eye pressure which can prevent vision loss. “Under Weinreb’s care, which included surgery, my current glaucoma is stable,” says Mark. But many of those with glaucoma don’t even know they have the disease. Without treatment, vision loss is irreversible.
The Gleibermans have long been supporters of UC San Diego, where Mark is on the board of trustees, and where he and Hanna helped to establish the Hanna and Mark Gleiberman Head and Neck Cancer Center at the Moores Cancer Center after she was treated there for tongue cancer.
“The fact that the Shiley Eye Institute is one of the top vision research centers in the world and that Dr. Weinreb is considered one of the leading worldwide glaucoma physicians/scientists gave us the confidence that our donation would be put to very good use, enhancing and expanding on the extraordinary work already being done at the Shiley Eye Institute,” says Mark. “Also, with recent scientific breakthroughs such as stem cell research in which UC San Diego is a leader, there appears to be excellent applications to make great progress in reversing the impact of glaucoma.”
The Gleibermans are also major contributors to many other nonprofits including the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, which established San Diego County’s first inclusive playground, the San Diego Jewish Family Service’s Safe Parking Program, Voices for Children, and Just in Time for Foster Youth. “We have been very fortunate to have the resources to live a very successful and happy life, along with our family,” notes Mark, Founder and CEO of MG Properties, a real estate investment and management company. “We feel strongly that we would like to help others who haven’t had the good fortune we have had to live the best life they possibly can.”