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Lighthouse Guild Honors International Scientist and Academic Leader from the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel and the Friedrich Miescher Institute
Lighthouse Guild, the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization, today announced that the distinguished scientist Botond Roska, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the 2018 Bressler Prize. Dr. Roska’s research interests are focused on understanding the structure and function of visual circuits. His work seeks to restore photosensitivity to retinas in retinal degeneration using cell type specific targeting of optogenetic tools. The overall objective is to find ways to repair visual dysfunction for patients with retinitis pigmentosa and other diseases of the retina.
“Dr. Botond Roska is being recognized for his innovative and outstanding research accomplishments,” said Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild. “He is combining different disciplines to expand our knowledge of the retina and different stages of visual processing. His scientific achievements are powerful, precedent-setting and establish a new standard for retinal research.”
“Lighthouse Guild is committed to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. We believe it is important to publicly acknowledge scientists who are searching for and finding ways to understand visual mechanisms and restore vision,” Dr. Morse said. “Dr. Roska’s research is opening new pathways to help people with vision loss lead full and productive lives.”
2018 Bressler Prize Recipient Botond Roska, MD, PhD
Dr. Roska is Director at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), Senior Group Leader at the Friedrich Miescher Institute (FMI) for Biomedical Research, and Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. He earned his MD at the Semmelweis University of Medicine in Budapest, and his PhD from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. After being a Harvard Junior Fellow at Harvard University, he started his research group at the Friedrich Miescher Institute (FMI) for Biomedical Research in 2005. He became Director at IOB in 2018. Dr. Roska has received numerous scientific awards and honors and is the author of multiple papers.
Dr. Roska said, “It is an honor to receive this prestigious award from Lighthouse Guild. As a scientist, I am committed to creating a link between basic science and medicine by converting our research on retinal processing into effective treatments for patients with retinal diseases. I look forward to continuing to work with other scientists in the field to advance vision science research and help restore vision to those impacted by retinal diseases.”
Dr. Roska and his laboratory team are focused on repairing visual dysfunction. Dr. Roska is investigating the retina, thalamus and cortex at the level of cell types and functional circuitry using a combination of physiological and molecular biological tools that in many cases he has invented. He is combining different disciplines including mouse genetics, viral tracing, molecular biology, electrophysiology and two-photon imaging to understand the structure and function of local circuits at different stages of visual processing. His team uses their understanding of retinal processing, the ability to target genetic material to identified cell types and optogenetic tools to create artificial photoreceptors in mouse models of blinding retinal diseases where intrinsic photosensitivity of classical, rod-cone, photoreceptors is lost. The key point is to reactivate retinal function, at least partially, using the artificial photoreceptors.
Dr. Roska has (1) advanced the understanding of how cell types interact in local circuits in the visual system to compute visual information, (2) created insights into the mechanisms of cell-type specific diseases, and (3) designed new therapies for restoring vision in genetic forms of blindness. Currently, he is developing human retinal disease models in the form of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) derived human retinal organoids.
Since 2003, the Bressler Prize has annually recognized a mid-career vision clinician-scientist whose leadership, research and service have led to important advancements in the understanding of vision loss, treatment of eye disease, or the rehabilitation of people with vision loss. An independent panel of judges from various vision care disciplines chooses the recipient.
Dr. Roska will receive a prize of $54,000 and will lead Lighthouse Guild’s annual Alfred W. Bressler Vision Science Symposium in New York City in the fall of 2018 where he will be joined by other clinicians and scientists who will present their latest findings in vision research.