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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Thierry Léveillard, Co-founder

Thierry Léveillard, PhD on Cellular and Molecular Biology, is Inserm Director or Research at Vision Institute (Paris) and head of Genetics Department. After several years of research in USA, in at UCSD and the Salk Institute and UCSC, he joined Genetics, Cellular and Molecular Biology Institute (IGBMC), then the Inserm laboratory at Strasbourg Louis Pasteur University. Author of several scientific reference publications in the field of genetics, he is co-founder, among other, of Rod derived Cone Viability Factor, the RdCVF.

He has received numerous international awards, including the 1997 Neuronal Plasticity IPSEN Award, the 2005 Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Trustee Award and the 2015 Prix de la fondation de l’oeil (Fondation de France). Thierry Léveillard is founder and, as scientific adviser for SparingVision, intervenes in all the phases of R and D regarding development of the viral vectors, in particular the realization of preclinical regulatory.

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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Prof. Eyal Banin MD PhD

Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology - Co-Director of Center for Advanced Retinal & Ocular Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania, US

Professor of Ophthalmology
Director of Center for Retina, Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, IL

Professor Eyal Banin is Director of the Center for Retinal and Macular Degenerations (CRMD) at the Department of Ophthalmology at Hebrew University-Hadassah 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 in 1998. 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 110 papers and articles in leading medical journals.

Prof. Jean Bennet MD PhD

Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology - Co-Director of Center for Advanced Retinal & Ocular Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania, US

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, 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, are in follow-up in Phase 3 (pivotal) studies and could lead to approval of the first ocular gene therapy drug. This could also be the first approved gene therapy drug in the USA and the first approved gene therapy for a blinding disorder worldwide. A second study in progress at CAROT, carried out at UPenn and at CHOP, targets a blinding disease called Choroideremia. Dr. Bennett’s Center continues to work hard to develop treatments that could be applied to other genetic and acquired blinding conditions.

Prof. Jacque Duncan MD PhD

Director of the Retinal Degenerations Clinic & Retinal Electrophysiology Laboratory at the University of California SF, US Chair of FFB Scientific Advisory Board

Dr. Duncan has over 16 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 Director of the Retinal Degenerations Clinic and Retinal Electrophysiology Laboratory 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 MD PhD

Division Chief, Ophthalmic Genetics Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, School of Medicine Case Eye Institute OHSU, US

Dr. Mark Pennesi, MD, PhD, 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 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. Dr. Pennesi’s interest in degenerative retinal disorders began shortly after his first year in college when he spent a summer working at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, where he worked under the supervision of Dr. David Birch seeing patients with inherited retinal degenerations, such as retinitis pigmentosa.
Dr. Pennesi pursued a combined MD/PhD at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He received numerous awards while in graduate school, including the John J. Trentin Award for earning the highest GPA in his class and the BRASS scholarship for playing an active role in community service. This was followed by a residency in Ophthalmology at University of California, San Francisco, where he was awarded the Hogan-Garcia Award for having the best resident research project. In 2011 Dr. Pennesi received the ARVO/Alcon Early Career Clinician-Scientist Research Award. He is also the recipient of a Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) career development award, a Research to Prevent Blindness career development award and an FFB enhanced career development award. He was awarded the Alcon Young Investigator Award in 2014 and a Residency Teaching award in 2015. He has also been elected into both the Macula Society and Retina Society.