Plain DealerCLEVELAND, Ohio — The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation has donated $5 million to University Hospitals Eye Institute in support of treatment and research in diabetic and age-related eye diseases. This gift pushes the Prentiss Foundation’s donations to more than $50 million, making it the largest private foundation donor in UH history, Dr. Fred C. Rothstein, president of UH Case Medical Center said Thursday. The gift will fund programs at the eye institute’s Center for Retina and Macular Disease, said Dr. Jonathan Lass, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the Eye Institute, and will be instrumental in developing new diagnostic methods for patients. Dr. Suber S. Huang, who heads the retina center, said the money was given in support of his work in retina diseases, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration and has the potential to impact millions of people since diabetic eye disease is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the U.S. “The rates of those eye diseases are likely to double in the next decade as the population ages,” said Huang, vice chairman of the ophthalmology department. “This is the most exciting time in the history of treatment of retinal diseases,” he said, with a number of breakthroughs in the areas of micro-surgery and pharmacological therapy and the emergence of immune and cell-based therapy. The gift, Lass said, will help the eye institute expand services to patients and purchase imaging instruments to study retinal diseases. In April, the Eye Institute’s renovated and expanded adult eye services will be available at the UH Landerbrook Health Center in Mayfield Heights. The Prentiss Foundation gift will support future enhancements of facilities and equipment throughout the UH system, Lass added. The gift is in memory of the late Dr. Benjamin L. Millikin who was the husband of Julia Severance and the grandfather of Prentiss Foundation trustee Elisabeth Alexander. Millikin was the first formally trained ophthalmologist in Cleveland and was instrumental in establishing UH’s Eye Institute more than 119 years ago. He also served as dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine from 1900 to 1912.