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Ben

The following articles were authored by Ben

Scientists Receive $25 Million to Develop a Vision-Restoring System that Connects to the Brain

Labels in English are (clockwise): Intelligent neuromorphic camera/LED; Matrix for optical stimulation of neurons/electronic; Implant for data processing/external; Antenna for energy transfer and wireless communication; External module for visual information transfer

Labels in English are (clockwise from upper left): Intelligent neuromorphic camera/LED; Matrix for optical stimulation of neurons/electronic; Implant for data processing/external; Antenna for energy transfer and wireless communication; External module for visual information transfer

While researchers around the world are developing numerous drugs and biological therapies for ocular diseases and injuries, an international scientific team coordinated in France is developing an innovative approach to bring back eyesight to the blind that bypasses the eye entirely. Their high-tech, vision-restoring system interfaces with the visual cortex, the back of the brain where visual input is processed to create the images we see.

The CorticalSight Consortium, led by Jose-Alain Sahel, MD, at the Institut de la Vision and the University of Pittsburgh, and Serge Picaud, PhD, at the Institut de la Vision, was recently awarded a contract of up to $24.9 million by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for development of their system, which combines optogenetics and advanced image-capturing and -processing technologies. A major advantage of the approach is it is designed to provide vision restoration for people regardless of their eye disease or condition.
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Foundation Fighting Blindness and 4D Molecular Therapeutics Partner to Boost Retinal Gene Therapy Development

Promising gene therapies for inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) — many of which have moved into clinical trials — use viral delivery systems (aka vectors) to get copies of the therapeutic gene to the retinal cells that need them. Viruses are well suited when used for gene delivery, because they’re adept at penetrating cells with their genetic cargo. While some viruses in their natural state can cause illness, therapy developers remove the native genes and replace them with those that are therapeutic.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness and 4D Molecular Therapeutics (4DMT), an innovative leader in viral vector development, have formed a partnership to help companies and researchers quickly obtain and implement high-quality vectors for their retinal gene-therapy development efforts.
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FFB-Funded Scientists Report on Nine Promising Translational Research Efforts

Translational research — moving promising science out of laboratories and into clinical trials — is essential to getting vision-saving, retinal-disease treatments out to the millions who need them. With that said, translational research is also costly and high risk and requires extensive clinical development and regulatory knowledge.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has taken the translational challenge head on by investing more than $75 million in therapy-development projects with strong clinical-trial potential through its Translational Research Acceleration Program (TRAP), which includes Gund-Harrington Scholar Awards.
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Researchers Find Mutation as Frequent Cause of RP in American Hispanics

A Foundation-funded research collaboration identified a mutation in the gene SAG as a frequent cause of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP) in the American Hispanic population. Eight of the 22 Hispanic families with adRP in their whole-exome-sequencing study had the mutation. The discovery can help genetic experts diagnose more patients with adRP, and it gives researchers a target for developing potential therapies. Results of the SAG study were published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS).
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Valproic Acid’s Effect Too Small in One-Year Clinical Trial

However, researchers identify a potentially powerful endpoint for evaluating emerging therapies in future studies.

Results from a clinical trial sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness Clinical Research Institute (FFB-CRI) indicate that valproic acid, a drug approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for seizure disorders, did not sufficiently preserve vision in people with autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP). FFB-CRI launched the 90-person study in 2010, because previous lab research, and a published clinical report involving a few patients, had suggested the drug might slow vision loss in people with adRP.
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Forty-Four High-Impact Retinal-Research Efforts Highlighted at FFB-Casey Innovation Summit

For anyone wanting to know about the latest clinically focused research for inherited retinal diseases (IRDs), the Innovation Summit for Retinal Cell and Gene Therapy was the place to be.

In its fourth year, the meeting is becoming the world’s most comprehensive overview of the promising research underway for emerging IRD treatments. Hosted by the Foundation Fighting Blindness and Casey Eye Institute (Oregon Health & Science University), the Innovation Summit featured 44 information-packed presentations from research and industry leaders. Summit co-hosts were Casey’s Mark Pennesi, MD, PhD, and Trevor McGill, PhD, and Patricia Zilliox, PhD, chief drug development officer of FFB’s Clinical Research Institute. More than 250 researchers and industry leaders were in attendance. Spark Therapeutics was a sponsor of the event.
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Clinical Trial Authorized in the U.S. for Emerging LCA 10 Therapy

ProQR, a biotechnology company in the Netherlands, has received authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start a Phase I/II clinical trial for its therapy known as QR-110, which is being developed for Leber congenital amaurosis type 10 (LCA 10). The genetic retinal condition causes severe vision loss in children. QR-110 targets the specific mutation p.Cys998X in the CEP290 gene, also known as c.2991+1655A>G mutation. It is estimated that it affects about 2,000 people in the Western world.

QR-110 was a featured topic at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Baltimore, May 7-11. About 12,000 eye researchers and industry professionals attended the event.
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ID Your IRD: A Free Genetic Testing Program for Eligible People with Inherited Retinal Diseases


Genes are like the blueprint or code for determining who we are. We all have about 23,000 pairs of genes in most cells in our bodies. Many of our physical attributes — such as height, eye and hair color, and complexion — are determined by our genes.

However, certain misspellings, also known as mutations, in our genetic code can cause diseases or increase our risk for them. In fact, inherited retinal diseases are caused by mutations in single genes.
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jCyte Stem-Cell Therapy Moves into Phase IIb Clinical Trial for RP

These are retinal progenitors.

These are retinal progenitors.

The stem-cell therapy company jCyte is launching a Phase IIb clinical trial of its therapy for people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The trial is taking place at University of California, Irvine, and Retina-Vitreous Associates Medical Group in Los Angeles. The 70-participant study is being led by Henry Klassen, MD, PhD. Participant enrollment is scheduled to begin this month.

The treatment involves intravitreal injection of retinal progenitor cells (RPCs), which are stem cells that have partially developed into the retinal cells that make vision possible. Based on lab studies, researchers believe the treatment can preserve and potentially rescue the patient’s existing photoreceptors, thereby saving and possibly restoring vision.
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Dr. Eliot Berson, Pioneer in Vitamin A Therapy for Retinitis Pigmentosa, Passes Away

No one in the retinal disease research community brought more passion and commitment to his or her work than Dr. Eliot Berson. As The William F. Chatlos Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, he dedicated himself to clinical care and vision-saving research for people with inherited retinal diseases for five decades. In addition to being a world-renowned clinical researcher and developer of vitamin A therapy for retinitis pigmentosa, he was beloved by his patients and their families for his hopeful and encouraging attitude toward their challenging, vision-robbing conditions.
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