Bressler Symposium Celebrates Both 2012 and 2013 Winners

Posted on 10/12/2013

In October, the Guild celebrated the 2012 and 2013 Alfred W. Bressler Prizes in Vision Science with a symposium led by Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, and Simon W. M. John, PhD. The combined symposium was brought about by the cancellation, due to Hurricane Sandy, of the 2012 Bressler symposium.

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, is one of the foremost specialists in the study of the molecular genetics of retinal degenerations as well as in the development and applications of gene therapy for those same ocular diseases. Dr. Bennett is the F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology and Cell and Developmental Biology as well as a Senior Investigator in the F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

In her studies, Dr. Bennett uses an understand- ing of retinal degeneration to develop rational approaches for treatment of ocular diseases including retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Leber Congenital Amaurosis, Stargardt’s Disease, Choroideremia and Usher’s Syndrome.

Simon W. M. John, PhD

Simon W. M. John, PhD, has dedicated his career to the understanding and treatment of glaucoma. Dr. John is a scientist at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, ME. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 1998. He also holds the position of Research Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology, at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Dr. John’s lab studies the molecular features of complex diseases such as glaucoma, through the use of mouse models and patient samples, combining genetics with genomics, cell molecular biology and physiology to understand how the damage occurs.

Understanding glaucoma/Gene therapy for retinal diseases

The prizes were presented at a luncheon preceded by a symposium focused on two areas: understanding glaucoma through experimental genetics and genomics, and gene therapy for retinal diseases. The speakers were:

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, winner of the 2012 Bressler Prize in Vision Science, F. M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA: Gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis as a stepping stone for treating other blinding diseases

Simon W. M. John, PhD, winner of the 2013 Bressler Prize in Vision Science, Professor, The Jackson Laboratory, Investigator Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME: Understanding glaucoma through experimental genetics & genomics

Michael Anderson, PhD, Associate Professor, Departments of Physiology & Biophysics and Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA: From one mutant to another: working with Dr. Simon John to discover mechanisms of glaucoma

Gwyneth Jane Farrar, PhD, Professor of Gen- etics, Smurfit Institute of Genetics, School of Genetics and Microbiology, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland: Development of gene-based therapies for dominantly and mitochondrially inherited ocular disorders

John Flannery, PhD, Professor of Vision Science and Neurobiology, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley: Engineering AAV vectors to target specific functional subclasses of retinal neurons and glia

David M. Gamm, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Emmett A. Humble Distinguished Director of the McPherson

Eye Research Institute, Waisman Center Stem Cell Research Program, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI: Using iPS cells to study human retinal development and disease

Oliver Smithies, PhD, Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Keeping an eye on Simon

Donald Zack, MD, PhD, Guerrieri Professor of Genetic Engineering & Molecular Ophthalmology, Glaucoma Division, The Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD: Neuroprotection as a treatment approach for glaucoma

For more information on The Alfred W. Bressler Prize in Vision Science, call Gordon Rovins, Guild Director of Special Programs, on 212-769-7801 or e-mail