Our History & Founder

The Cornea Research Foundation of America (CRFA) was founded as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization (tax ID 31-1243592) by Francis W. Price Jr., M.D. in 1988 with a goal to establish a world center for clinical research and education specializing in corneal disease, corneal transplantation and intraocular lens surgery. A visionary physician, Dr. Price understood that corneal surgeries were increasing, in part, due to complications following cataract surgeries. In response, he created a database to store and track preoperative, surgical and postoperative statistics for transplants performed since 1982 within Price Vision Group.
His efforts were strengthened when the Indiana Lions Eye Bank became involved with the Foundation in 1990. Their contributions and many generous supporters have helped maintain the burgeoning Cornea Transplant Database that now houses data more than 8,000 transplants. Although the Foundation’s primary focus is on transplant data, its mission has evolved to include many other vision research initiatives.

In 1991, the Foundation began participating in FDA Investigational Studies* involving the use of the excimer laser. While previous studies sponsored by excimer manufacturers focused on gaining marketing approval for lasers, Price Vision Group was granted approval for three of its own Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) studies to evaluate the LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileuisis) procedure using the excimer laser. These studies centered on improved patient safety, various therapeutic means to improve visual results, and the effect of age, gender and smoking on visual results, areas that laser manufacturers would not have pursued or funded.

Patient consent is obtained for studies using human subjects. All prospective studies are done with Institutional Review Board approval and in accordance with applicable National Institute of Health and Federal Drug Administration guidelines. To learn more about conducting research, view this article.

Since 2003 the Foundation has been most noteably known for cutting-edge research on small-incision cornea transplant techniques that improve patient outcomes, recovery time and reduce risk of rejection.

Since its inception, the Foundation has been led by Dr. Price’s passion for innovation and lifelong learning. To date, CRFA has participated in 100 clinical and investigational studies and published over 150 papers and manuscripts.  The Foundation also holds regular seminars and courses for physicians, as well as patients, regarding developments in ophthalmology. The Visionary, a newsletter published by the Foundation four times a year, is disseminated to patients, ophthalmologists and optometrists. These contributions have earned the Foundation an international reputation as a leader in ophthalmic research.
* FDA Investigational Studies are carried out on either drugs or devices prior to their approval for sale. 


Our Founder

Francis W. Price, Jr., M.D.

price-(1).jpgDr. Price has served as a principal investigator or medical advisor on over 100 clinical studies on ophthalmic medications and devices, as well as surgical procedures including cornea transplants, glaucoma, cataracts and refractive surgery. He also is a teacher, a frequent lecturer and inventor, holding U.S. patents for special devices used in ophthalmic surgery.  He has authored or co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications.
In 2005, Dr. Price performed the first ever laser-assisted contoured penetrating keratoplasty with the Intralase Laser. Since then, he has helped to develop new techniques and applications for therapeutic applications of the femtosecond laser.  He also has been active in helping develop endothelial keratoplasty techniques as well as teaching these techniques to corneal surgeons with intensive two day courses in Indianapolis, Indiana.

As medical director of the Price Vision Group and President of the CRFA, Dr. Price is an internationally recognized ophthalmic surgeon, and recipient of the Senior Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University Of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, and is a 1977 graduate of Indiana University Medical School, where he also completed his residency in ophthalmology. He completed a fellowship in corneal and external disease at Tulane University. 

Key Highlights Over 30 Years

Founded in 1988:   Dr. Price  secured initial funding, incorporated the Cornea Research Foundation of America and began tracking transplant outcomes in the Cornea  Transplant  Database
so we could begin to understand why some transplants do better than others

On the Cutting Edge in 1991: First site in Indiana to test a new excimer laser which proved effective for millions who have now had laser vision correction

Going Global in 1997: Cornea.org was established as online resource for patients and doctors and the Visionary Newsletter was launched to update supporters on study findings and more
Sharing Knowledge in 1998: We began offering Cornea Courses to surgeons and have now hosted 600 doctors from 36 countries

Artificial Iris Study begins in  2002: Began offering iris (colored part of the eye) implants to improve quality of life for those born without an iris or with iris damage from an eye injury
Revolutionized Cornea Transplants in 2003: Performed first DSEK transplant in the U.S. — our reports of excellent outcomes have helped DSEK become the most widely used transplant procedure

“100 Years Later” in 2005: Dr. Mathias Zirm of Austria, the grandson of the surgeon who performed the first successful human cornea transplant, came to the U.S. to learn endothelial keratoplasty from Dr. Price

Allergy Relief in 2003: Helped get approval for once-a-day eye drop to relieve ocular itching and pain associated with allergies

Cataract Surgery in 2004: Evaluated a “blue blocker” intraocular lens to protect the retina after cataract surgery resulting in widespread use throughout the U.S.

Worldwide Cornea Shortage in 2007: Research to multiply stem cells from a single donor cornea to offer potential relief for the worldwide tissue shortage began

Pioneering Transplantation Methods: In 2005, Dr. Price performed first transplant with interlocking laser-cut incisions allowing faster healing and higher success — a technique now used globally!

Major Contributor to Fuchs' dystrophy Research: Since our start, we've served as a contributor to multi-center effort to understand the genetic basis of Fuchs’ dystrophy in 2006 and now genetic follow up study currently underway in 2018

DMEK Arrives in 2008:  Dr. Price published the first series of results on DMEK in the U.S. and through tracking outcomes found it reduces risk of graft rejection to less than 1% and leads to faster healing compared to full thickness and DSEK methods

Transplant Textbook in 2009:  In addition to countless journal articles, Drs. Frank and Marianne Price co-authored first surgical textbook on DSEK and DMEK transplant techniques

Creating Resources in 2010: Drs. Frank and Marianne Price produced a book for surgeons providing practical advice about best practices in the treatment of cornea and external eye diseases

Addressing Why Transplants Fail in 2011: Studies initiated to unlock the mystery of why transplants that have been doing well sometimes rapidly deteriorate and fail resulting in graft replacement

LASIK vs. Contacts in 2012:  Nationwide survey of 1,800 participants every year for 3 years to determine if patient satisfaction between these  two popular vision correction methods changed over time

DMEK Steroid Studies in 2012:   Initiated first-ever prospective studies (3 large studies) of 850 participants to optimize steroid dosing to minimize graft rejection and glaucoma risk with DMEK

Dry Eye Relief in 2013:   Began several new studies to evaluate new treatments for dry eyes, one of the most frequent complaints made after eye surgery

Leaders in DMEK Tracking over 5,500 EK Surgeries since 2003: Now tracking long-term outcomes of over 5,500 endothelial keratoplasty (EK) procedures; continuing to uniquely position CRFA to make observations and optimize results more so than any other research center in the world

Crosslinking for Keratoconus since 2008: Studies to investigate crosslinking as a strengthening treatment for those with weakened corneas, for conditions such as keratoconus, began in 2008 and  led to FDA approval in 2016

Long-Term Outcomes in 2016:  CRFA published findings on 10-year DSEK follow-up and 5-year DMEK patient follow-up further showcasing the effectiveness of endothelial keratoplasty in treating corneal dystrophies

Genetics, Here We Go Again in 2017:  a follow-up study to the Fuchs’ genetics study (2006) began in order to identify which transplant recipients are at risk for high intraocular pressure side effect after surgery

ROCK Inhibitors to Reduce Complications in 2018:   A study to evaluate whether ROCK inhibitors can reduce the the number of transplant patients that experience elevated intraocular pressure and possibly help regrow lost endothelial cells