Prof. José Alain Sahel, Co-founder

José-Alain Sahel studied medicine at the Medical School of Paris University and ophthalmology at the University of Strasbourg and at Harvard University (Boston-Cambridge, USA).

He was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at the University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg. Currently, José-Alain Sahel is Professor of Ophthalmology at Pierre and Marie Curie University Medical School, Paris, France and Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology-University College London, UK. He chairs the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation. In 2016, he was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and The Eye and Ear Foundation Endowed Chair.

The primary focus of Sahel’s fundamental and clinical research is the understanding of the mechanisms associated with retinal degeneration, together with the conception, development and evaluation of innovative treatments for retinal diseases, with a special focus on genetic rod-cone dystrophies (e.g. neuroprotection, stem cells, gene therapy, pharmacology, and artificial retina).

José-Alain Sahel scientific group (with Saddek Mohand-Said and Thierry Léveillard) was the first to hypothesize and demonstrate that rod photoreceptors produce a protein that rescues cone photoreceptors, thereby maintaining light-adapted and high-resolution vision.

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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. Paul Sieving

Professor of Ophthalmology at University of California Davis School of Medicine and the former Director of the US National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health

Dr. Paul A. Sieving is an ophthalmologist with extensive expertise in inherited retinal diseases (IRD). He served as Director of the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health for nearly 20 years where he led the research programs to advance national vision health. Dr. Sieving previously was the Paul R. Lichter Professor of Ophthalmic Genetics at the University of Michigan Medical School for 17 years and founded the Centre for Retinal and Macular Degeneration. Dr. Sieving received his M.D. from the University of Illinois where he trained in ophthalmology and obtained a Ph.D. in bioengineering. He has developed and led translational therapy programs for IRD conditions using human ocular gene therapy and neurotrophic factor implants. Dr. Sieving has received prestigious awards including the Società Oftalmologica Italiana Honorary Award in Ophthalmology in 2016. He holds elected membership in the National Academy of Medicine USA and the German National Academy of Science. Since leaving the NIH in 2019, he founded the new Centre for Ocular Regenerative Therapy “CORT” at the University of California Davis.

Prof. Botond Roska

Founding Director, Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), Basel, Switzerland

Prof. Roska, MD, Ph.D., has over 15 years of experience studying neuronal activity and neurodevelopmental diseases of the retina.In 2018, together with Prof. Hendrik Scholl, hefounded the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel. Since 2014, he has been a Professor at the Faculty of Medicine and since 2019 at the Faculty of Science at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He earned a medical degree at the Semmelweis Medical School in Hungary in 1995, before completing his Ph.D in Neurobiology at the University of California Berkeley in 2002 and becoming a Harvard Society Fellow in Genetics in 2005.

Prof. Roska is an neuroscientist and molecular geneticist who has made significant scientific contributions to his field, including working in collaboration with Prof. Jose Sahel and his research group to study retinal cell-type-targeted approaches to restoring visual activity in patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa patients. He has received a number of awards for his research, including the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, and most recently, the Körber European Science Prize and the Sanford and Susan Greenberg End Blindness Visionary Prize.

Prof. Elias Arnér

Head and Professor of Biochemistry Division, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr. Elias Arnér is Professor in Biochemsitry at the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden, and is an expert in selenoproteins and the mammalian thioredoxin system. Elias completed his MD and Ph.D. at the Karolinska institute, and was Dean of postgraduate education at the university 2005-2007, before becoming Professor in Biochemistry in 2009. Elias’ Ph.D. thesis was on nucleotide metabolism and nucleoside analogs as therapeutics, and his post doc work into selenoproteins, and specifically thioredoxin reductase, came to form the main line of research in his laboratory. His expertise in his field led to him being appointed in 2020 as the Head of Department at the Department of Selenoprotein Research at the National Institute of Oncology in Hungary. Elias has authored over 150 publications and in 2019 was appointed as Board Member of the Council for Medicine and Health at the Swedish Research.

Prof. Pierre Chambon

Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Institute of Advanced Studies Strasbourg University Founder & former Director of Institute for Genetics, Cellular and Molecular Biology, France

Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Institute of Advanced Studies Strasbourg University
Founder & former Director of Institute for Genetics, Cellular and Molecular Biology, France

Pierre Chambon, who is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Strasbourg University, is Honorary Professor at the Collège de France (Paris), and Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Strasbourg University. He is the founder and former Director of the Institute for Genetics and Cellular and Molecular Biology (IGBMC), and the founder and former Director of the Institut Clinique de la Souris (ICS/MCI), in Strasbourg, France.

Over the last 50 years, his scientific achievements are logically inscribed in an uninterrupted series of discoveries in the field of transcriptional control of gene expression in higher eukaryotes: discovery of PolyADPRibose (1963), discovery of multiple RNA polymerases (1969), major contribution to the elucidation of chromatin structure, the Nucleosome (1974), discovery of animal split genes (1977), discovery of multiple promoter elements and their cognate factors (1980-1993) and of transcriptional enhancers (1981). During the last 30 years his studies on the structure and function of nuclear receptors have changed our concept of signal transduction and endocrinology.

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