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Ben Shaberman

As the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Director, Science Communications, Ben writes science and research articles for the Foundation’s website, newsletters and Eye on the Cure blog. Before joining the Foundation in 2003, he worked as a staff writer for health, long-term care and hospice care organizations. Ben’s freelance essays and commentaries have been published by a variety of national newspapers and magazines.

The following articles were authored by Ben Shaberman

French Gene Therapy Company Advancing Three Programs for Retinal Diseases

Audio version:

Horama, a French biotech developing gene therapies for rare eye diseases, was established in 2014 as a spin-off of INSERM, France’s public scientific and technology institute. Today, the company has three gene-therapy development programs underway for rare inherited retinal diseases, targeting people with mutations in the genes PDE6B, RPE65, and RLBP1.
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ARVO 2018: Dr. Henry Klassen Provides Update on jCyte Stem Cell Trials

Dr. Henry Klassen, jCyte co-founder and investigator at UC Irvine, provides an update in the video below on the clinical trials for an RP therapy derived from stem cells.

ARVO 2018: Port Delivery System Designed to Reduce Burden of Lucentis Injections for Wet AMD

Dr. Christopher Brittain, Genentech medical director, discusses his company’s port delivery system, a tiny capsule implanted into the eye, for delivery of Lucentis® over a period of a few months. The device is currently in a Phase 2 clinical trial.

The image on the right shows the port implanted into an eye.

ARVO 2018: Dr. Stephen Daiger Reports on the State of Genetic Testing for Inherited Retinal Diseases

After presenting a poster on a new mutation in the RP gene KIF3B at the ARVO meeting in Honolulu, FFB-funded geneticist Dr. Stephen Daiger discusses the progress that’s been made in genetic testing for people with inherited retinal conditions.

ARVO 2018: Dr. Steve Rose Reports on CRISPR/Cas9 for Inherited Retinal Diseases

FFB’s own Dr. Steve Rose, chief scientific officer, reviews our commitment to funding and exploring CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing for inherited retinal disease in the video below.

FFB currently funds CRISPR/Cas9 projects at four institutions:

  • Johns Hopkins University (retinitis pigmentosa caused by the P23H mutation in RHO)
  • Columbia University (RP caused by the D190N mutation in RHO)
  • Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (RP caused by a mutation in RP1)
  • UCLA (Usher syndrome 1B caused by a mutation in MYO7A)

Want to learn more about the benefits of CRISPR/Cas9? Check out: A Cut-and-Paste Approach to Fixing Retinal-Disease Genes

ARVO 2018: Studies Show Mediterranean Diet May Lower Advanced AMD Risk

Audio version:

Several research studies have suggested that the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) – which is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and fish – may be good for your health, including lowering your risk of an early visit from the grim reaper.

Known as the EYE-RISK CONSORTIUM, a large international research collaboration found that the MeDi reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 39 percent. The researcher’s findings were highlighted in a poster on May 1 at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Honolulu.
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Study Suggests Vitamin A May Benefit Children with RP

Audio version:

An FFB-funded study at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) suggests that vitamin A palmitate supplementation may slow the decline of cone function by nearly 50 percent in children with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Cones are the photoreceptors that normally provide daytime vision, and the ability to read, recognize faces, and perceive colors. Cone function was evaluated in the study by a full-field electroretinogram or ERG, which measures the retina’s electrical response to light.
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jCyte Reports Results for Phase 1/2a Clinical Trial for Retinal-Cell Treatment

jcyteA retinal-cell treatment for people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) has performed encouragingly in a Phase 1/2a clinical trial. Developed by jCyte, the treatment was evaluated for 12 months in 28 people at two sites in Southern California.

Side effects were minor in the safety-oriented trial. Those receiving the highest dose of the treatment had the best results. Their visual acuity, as measured using an eye chart, was nearly two lines (nine letters) better in their treated eye than in their untreated eye. Some participants reported increased light sensitivity, improved color vision, better mobility, and improved reading ability. Ultimately, 22 of the 28 participants had their second eye treated. Continue Reading…

Twelve People Receive XLRS Gene Therapy in AGTC’s Clinical Trial

Applied Genetics Technology Corporation (AGTC) reported that its gene therapy for X-linked retinoschisis (XLRS) has performed encouragingly in a Phase I/II, safety-oriented clinical trial taking place at seven sites in the U.S.

XLRS is an inherited disease that leads to significant vision loss due to splitting of the layers of the retina. The condition affects about 35,000 males in the U.S. and Europe. XLRS is caused by mutations in the gene retinoschisin. AGTC’s gene therapy uses a human-engineered virus — and adeno-associated virus or AAV — to deliver normal copies of retinoschisin to the patient’s retina.
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SparingVision Formed to Advance Sight-Saving Protein for RP

L to R: Florence Allouche Ghrenassia, PharmD, President, SparingVision; Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation; José-Alain Sahel, MD, Co-Founder, SparingVision and Fondation Voir & Entendre; David Brint, and Chairman, Foundation Fighting Blindness; and Laure Reinhardt, Deputy CEO, Bpifrance

L to R: Florence Allouche Ghrenassia, PharmD, President, SparingVision; Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation; José-Alain Sahel, MD, Co-Founder, SparingVision and Fondation Voir & Entendre; David Brint, Chairman, Foundation Fighting Blindness; and Laure Reinhardt, Deputy CEO, Bpifrance

The development of a vision-saving treatment for people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is getting a major boost thanks to the formation of the French biotech SparingVision to move it into a clinical trial and out to the international marketplace.

A spin-off of the Institut de la Vision, SparingVision was established to clinically develop and commercialize a protein known as rod-derived cone-viability factor (RdCVF). The emerging therapy performed well in several previous lab studies funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. SparingVision’s goal is to launch a clinical trial for the protein in 2019.
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