2019 Bressler Prize Recipient Vladimir Kefalov, PhD

“Throughout Dr. Kefalov’s brilliant career he has demonstrated an impressive ability to identify fundamental questions in retinal physiology and address them using a wide variety of techniques,” said Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild.  We honor him for his powerful, creative and precedent-setting work.”

Dr. Kefalov is a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, and the Department of Neuroscience, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He completed his postgraduate training in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he spent several years as a postdoctoral fellow. Earlier, he trained as a retinal physiologist in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Boston University School of Medicine, where he earned a PhD in Cellular Biophysics. He also holds a MSc in Solid State Physics from Sofia University in his native Bulgaria.

“I am humbled to be named the recipient of the prestigious Bressler Prize,” said Dr. Kefalov. “I am honored to be recognized for my research contributions and believe the Bressler Prize will further energize our efforts to study the mechanisms of human vision disorders.”

During his career, Dr. Kefalov has identified fundamental questions in retinal physiology and addressed them using a wide variety of techniques that have advanced the understanding of multiple disorders of human vision, notably the etiology of photoreceptor dysfunction and degeneration. Two types of photoreceptor cells, rods and cones, give us our color vision and night vision, and their malfunction contributes to a number of serious eye problems.

Little was known about the mechanisms that regulate cone cells, which are small and fragile. Early in his career, Dr. Kefalov used genetically modified mice to study the role that visual pigment plays in determining the functional properties of rods and cones, which helped to determine the mechanisms that make cones less sensitive to light than rods.

After establishing his own laboratory at Washington University in 2005, Dr. Kefalov developed a comprehensive set of tools for studying and analyzing photoreceptor physiology, including the cone photoreceptors. He has advanced our understanding of the function of cones, their rapid dark adaptation, and their ability to adapt to a wide range of light intensities – features critical for daytime vision.

With the wide array of experimental methods and the insights they produced, Dr. Kefalov’s lab has published 65 papers over the last 10 years. His publications have appeared in some of the highest ranked journals, including Nature, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, Current Biology, PNAS, eLife, Journal of Clinical Investigations, and Journal of Neuroscience.

His work is currently supported by five major NIH awards on which he is a principal investigator or co-investigator, including 3 RO1 awards, a U01 award, and a R24 award. He has also received numerous awards and grants from private foundations, including a Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness, and an Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Grant.

Since 2003, the Bressler Prize annually has recognized a mid-career vision clinician or scientist whose leadership, research and service have led to substantive advancements in the understanding of vision loss, treatment of eye disease, or the rehabilitation of people with vision loss.

Dr. Kefalov will receive a prize of $54,000 and lead Lighthouse Guild’s annual Alfred W. Bressler Vision Science Symposium in New York City.