Krzysztof Palczewski laboratory made a historic contribution by solving the crystal structure of rhodopsin, which has been cited over 6,000 times. His laboratory employs classical biochemical methods, crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, cellular cryo-electron tomography, and two-photon microscopy to study phototransduction and visual retinoid cycle to obtain a comprehensive view of the visual system in health and during disease. His recent studies in two-photon functional imaging in the eye, advanced the discovery and validation of treatments that can prevent retinal degenerative diseases. He developed visual chromophore supplementation, detoxification of harmful retinoids, and systems pharmacology toward the treatments of common retinal diseases. His next goal is to move pharmacological approaches beyond preclinical studies in animal models.
Dr. Palczewski’s contributions to the chemistry and biology of vision and development of new therapies were recognized with numerous awards, including the ARVO Cogan Award in 1996, the ARVO Friedenwald Award in 2014, Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research in 2014, and Distinguished University Professor at CWRU in 2016. His publications (>560) were cited more than 39,000 times.
He received M.Sc. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Wroclaw, PhD in Biochemistry from the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, and then trained in Dr. Paul Hargrave’s laboratory. Dr. Palczewski established his first laboratory in 1992 in Portland, Oregon. He was promoted to a full professor at the University of Washington in 1997. After moving to Cleveland in 2005 to become the Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Case Western Reserve University he continued productive vision research.
The Retina Research Foundation’s Paul Kaysser International Award for Retina Research will be awarded during the Opening Ceremony on Monday, September 10, 10:30-12:00, Hall 1A.
The title of his lecture is: Chemistry and Biology of Vision
Bärbel R. Rohrer, PhD
Dr. Bärbel (Barb) Rohrer is Professor and Endowed Chair in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Medical University of South Carolina and is an academic and innovative leader in diseases of the retina.
Dr. Rohrer received her training in the field of Visual Neuroscience and Experimental Ophthalmology, setting the stage for her early work in myopia, Retinitis Pigmentosa and Leber Congenital Amaurosis.
Her lab is currently investigating mechanism of retinal degeneration and neuroprotection, focusing on two areas: targeting complement activation in models of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and improving mitochondrial homeostasis as a means to promote life-span in neurons. Specifically, Dr. Rohrer was the first to show that the alternative pathway of complement can be targeted therapeutically, reducing both symptoms in wet and dry AMD, using the group’s innovative technology of targeted inhibitors. Additionally, she co-developed tools to image complement activation in vivo. Finally, Dr. Rohrer and her collaborators have developed small molecules that can be used as eyedrops for the treatment of RP and AMD, targeting mitochondria in the neural retina and retinal pigment epithelium.
Dr. Rohrer is well published, funded by federal, private and commercial entities, has mentored >55 trainees, and is a sought-after speaker both nationally and internationally. She holds 11 U.S. and international patents, with an additional 24 applications pending. Her IP provided the foundation for three start-up companies, one of which she co-founded. In addition, she serves as a consultant for multiple companies and is a member of 3 scientific advisory boards.
Finally, Dr. Rohrer is a Foundation Fighting Blindness Scientific Advisory Board member, member of multiple professional societies, including ARVO, ISER, and the NY Academy of Science, and elected member of the National Academy of Inventors.
The Ernst H. Bárány Prize will be awarded during the Plenary Lecture on Tuesday, September 11, 10:30-12:00, Hall 1A.
The title of his lecture is: Complement-Activation and Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Mechanisms, Treatments and Diagnostics
Paul L. Kaufman, MD
Dr Kaufman is the Ernst H. Bárány Professor of Ocular Pharmacology and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health. He is a physician-scientist, specializing in glaucoma and studying the mechanisms of aqueous humor formation and drainage, and the age-related loss of near vision. Dr Kaufman is a past President and past Executive Vice President of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, past President of the International Society for Eye Research, and has served on the US National Advisory Eye Council and numerous foundation and corporate scientific advisory boards. He has had continuous research funding from the US National Eye Institute for 40 years, has authored over 350 original scientific articles and 75 book chapters, co-edited several textbooks including the most recent editions of Adler’s Physiology of the Eye, and received numerous honors and awards, most recently the 2017 Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology (ARVO) Jonas Friedenwald Award and the 2018 International Society for Eye Research (ISER) Endre Bálázs Prize. He was Editor-in-Chief of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science from 2008 through 2012. Dr. Kaufman holds Doctor of Medicine degrees from New York University and Uppsala University (Sweden, honorary).
Dr. Kaufman is married to the novelist Margaret George, and together they have a daughter who lives with her husband and daughter in Washington DC. Dr. Kaufman notes that while he was Chair, he could not find his other interests, which were history, political thought, espionage, theatre, certain types of music, and running.
The Endre A. Balazs Prize will be awarded during the Plenary Lecture on Wednesday, September 12, 10:30-12:00, Hall 1A.
The title of his lecture is: Deconstructing Aqueous Humor Outflow – The Last 50 Years
Rando Allikmets, PhD
Rando Allikmets, Ph.D., is Acquavella Professor, Departments of Ophthalmology and Pathology & Cell Biology and Research Director, Harkness Eye Institute, Columbia University, New York. His interests are focused on the identification of genes, disease mechanisms, and therapeutic applications for retinal diseases.
A native of Estonia, Prof. Allikmets received his MS from Moscow State University in Plant Virology and his PhD in Molecular Biology from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Moscow. He then completed postdoctoral studies at the departments of Neurobiology and Tumor Biology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. He continued his research at the National Cancer Institute, NIH and joined the faculty at Columbia University in 1999.
Prof. Allikmets’ early work in cancer genetics and human genome dealt with tumor suppressor genes, oncogenes and multidrug resistance genes. During that time he created several new methods of human genome analysis and cloned and characterized several important disease and cancer genes from the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter superfamily. Some examples include the gene for sideroblastic anemia and ataxia, ABCB7; a major identifier gene for stem cell population, ABCG2; and a marker for corneal limbal stem cells, ABCB5. He cloned and characterized >25 new ABC transporters, many of which have started new research directions in basic, clinical and translational science.
The ABCA4 gene, which he cloned in 1997 and which determined the rest of his career, is the most frequently mutated gene in a wide variety of Mendelian phenotypes, from Stargardt disease to RP. ABCA4 was also the first gene shown to be involved in AMD and started a program, which lead to discovery of two major AMD genes/loci CFH and CFB/C2. Prof. Allikmets also led the pre-clinical studies for treating Stargardt disease by small molecule compounds and gene therapy, both of which are now in clinical trials. Altogether, Prof. Allikmets’ research is documented in >200 papers and his studies have expanded to many countries through his former students, fellows and postdocs.
The Ludwig von Sallmann Prize will be awarded during the Plenary Lecture on Thursday, September 13, 10:30-12:00, Hall 1A.
The title of his lecture is: Stargardt and Other ABCA4 Diseases: A Model for Understanding Complex Genetic and Clinical Correlations