Prof. Jean Bennett

Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology - Co-Director of Center for Advanced Retinal & Ocular Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A

Jean Bennett, MD, Ph.D., is the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics (CAROT) at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She has developed gene transfer approaches to test treatment strategies for retinal degenerative and ocular neovascular diseases, to elucidate retinal differentiation pathways and to identify pathogenetic mechanisms that lead to blindness. Her research with Dr. Albert Maguire, conducted at UPenn over the past 25 years, has established the scientific underpinnings which made it possible to test the first potential definitive retinal gene therapy treatment for patients with blinding retinal degenerations. Dr. Bennett is the Scientific Director of gene therapy clinical trials for a congenital blindness. These studies, carried out at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and sponsored by Spark Therapeutics, led to the approval of the first gene therapy drug (Luxturna) for a genetic disease in the USA. This is also the first gene therapy drug to be approved worldwide. Dr. Bennett’s Center continues to strive to develop treatments that could be applied to other genetic and acquired blinding conditions.

Prof. Jacque Duncan

Academic Director, Retina Service, Department of Ophthalmology, at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), US Chair of FFB Scientific Advisory Board, U.S.A

Dr. Duncan, MD, Ph.D., has over 20 years of experience treating and characterizing patients with retinal degenerations. She earned a medical degree at the University of California, San Francisco, where she also completed an ophthalmology residency. Dr. Duncan then completed a medical retina fellowship at the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on patients with age-related macular degeneration and inherited retinal degeneration. She returned to UCSF and joined the faculty in 2000. She is a professor of clinical ophthalmology at UCSF.
As a translational clinician-scientist and Academic Director of the Retina Service of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Dr Duncan has expertise in the diagnosis and management of patients with retinal degenerations.
In her research, she is studying treatments to preserve vision and to develop new outcome measures to monitor photoreceptor survival during the course of disease progression.
She has received research funding from the US Food and Drug Administration Office of Orphan Product Development, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Research to Prevent Blindness, the Lowy Macular Research Institute, the Beckman Institute for Macular Research, Karl Kirchgessner Foundation, Hope for Vision, and the American Geriatrics Society.

Prof. Eric Pierce MD PhD

Professor of Ophthalmology Massachusetts Eye and Ear Harvard Medical School, US

Dr. Eric Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position. He was then recruited to the department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute.
Dr. Pierce is an ophthalmologist and molecular geneticist whose research program is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms of inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), and improving therapeutic interventions for these conditions. IRDs are a leading cause of blindness worldwide, and are characterized by progressive dysfunction and death of retinal photoreceptor cells.
Dr. Pierce’s research program is focused on identifying new IRD disease genes, investigating the mechanism by which mutations in the identified genes lead to blindness, and using this information about disease pathogenesis to develop rational therapies to prevent vision loss.

Prof. Marc Pennesi

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine, Case Eye Institute Ohio Health & Science University, U.S.A

Prof. Mark Pennesi, MD, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Ophthalmology at Oregon Health & Science University.  He holds the Kenneth C. Swan Endowed Professorship and is the chief of the Paul H. Casey Ophthalmic Genetics Division at the Casey Eye Institute.  Dr. Pennesi attended the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering and was awarded the Herman P. Schwann award in bioengineering for exemplary scholarship. 

Prof. Pennesi pursued combined MD/PhD at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, followed by a residency in ophthalmology at University of California, San Francisco, where he was awarded the Hogan-Garcia Award for best resident research project. He is the recipient of an FFB career development award, an RPB career development award, and an FFB enhanced career development award, and has been elected into both the Macula Society and the Retina Society.

Prof. Pennesi is a clinician scientist with a passion for developing novel therapeutic regimens for inherited retinal diseases. He has helped propel the Casey Eye Institute into a leader in novel therapies for inherited retinal dystrophies, and has been the PI or Co-PI on numerous clinical trials into treatments for inherited retinal diseases. He is a principal investigator on the Allergan Brilliance trials, which saw the first patient treated with gene editing from CEP290-related retinopathy.

Prof. Eyal Banin

Professor of Ophthalmology ; Director, Center for Retinal and Macular Degenerations (CRMD), Department of Ophthalmology, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

Prof. Eyal Banin, MD, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Retinal and Macular Degenerations (CRMD) at the Department of Ophthalmology at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, holds a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the Hebrew University, and completed his ophthalmology residency at Hadassah Medical Center. Following a post-doctoral and medical retina fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia, he was appointed head of the Medical Retina Service and the CRMD at Hadassah. His main clinical and research focus is in the field of retinal and macular degenerations, including the development and application of novel cell- and gene-based therapies for these diseases. The recipient of many research grants from Israeli and foreign institutions, Dr. Banin has authored and published over 140 articles in leading medical journals.

Prof. Masayo Takahashi

President of Vision Care & Project Leader at RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, Japan

Prof. Takahashi, MD, Ph.D., is a world-renowned scientist whose clinical and research work has focused on ophthalmology and retinal diseases. In 2014, Prof. Takahashi and her team at the RIKEN institute in Japan succeeded in a world-first transplanting of cells made from induced pluripotent stem cells into a human body. This landmark achievement was achieved by reprogramming the patient’s own cells into iPSCs, before differentiating them into retinal pigment epithelium cells and transplanting them.

Prof. Takahashi graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Kyoto University in 1986 and went on to receive a Ph.D. from the university in 1992. In 1995 she began post-doctoral research at the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute in California. In 2006, she became Team Leader at the Laboratory for Retinal Regeneration at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, before becoming Project Leader in 2012. In 2019, she left RIKEN to become President of Vision Care, a biotech company focused on ophthalmology and regenerative medicine. In 2015, Prof. Takahashi was awarded the Ogawa-Yamanaka Prize in Stem Cell Biology.

Prof. Bart Leroy

Head of Department of Ophthalmology, Ghent University Hospital, Professor of Ophthalmology, Ghent, Belgium; Director of the Ophthalmic Genetics and Retinal Degenerations clinics in the Division of Ophthalmology and Center for Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

Dr. Leroy, MD, Ph.D., is an expert in ophthalmic medicine and retinal degeneration, and is Professor of Ophthalmology at Ghent University, having been the Head of Department at Ghent University Hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology since 2016. Ghent was also where he completed his Ph.D. on inherited retinal dystrophies in 2006 after training as a clinical geneticist and ophthalmologist at Ghent University Hospital, and his fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK.
His clinical focus at both Ghent University Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with inherited retinal and eye diseases including Leber congenital amaurosis, Stargardt disease, retinitis pigmentosa, and other genetic syndromes and diseases. He took part in the development of Luxturna and is currently involved in several clinical trials of ocular gene therapy. Dr. Leroy has authored over 150 papers, and received numerous prizes and grants for his work into ophthalmic medicine and retinal diseases.