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World Experts Awarded for their Fight Against Blindness at "Day of Science"

Owings Mills, MD - March 1, 2009 – A group of the world’s leading scientific researchers converged on February 28 for the fight against blindness, participating in the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ 2009 Day of Science conference held at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. Day of Science brought Foundation board members, trustees and supporters, many of whom suffer from eye diseases that lead to blindness, together with retinal researchers and clinicians who reported on the latest advancements being made in retinal disease research. The sessions focused on areas of research such as gene and stem cell therapies, and the advancement of these potential treatments to clinical trials.

Several presenters at the conference are involved with a gene therapy clinical trial for LCA that reported its first successes in restoring some vision to its participants last April. These presenters, as well as many other researchers not in attendance, were awarded with the Foundation Fighting Blindness Board of Directors award for their contributions toward this tremendous breakthrough. The recipients of this award include: from The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania: Katherine A. High, M.D., Jennifer Wellman, M.D., Fraser Wright, Ph.D., and Kathleen Marshall; from the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute: Jeannette L. Bennicelli, Ph.D., Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., Albert M. Maguire, M.D., and Eric A. Pierce, M.D., Ph.D.; from the University of Pennsylvania: Tomas Aleman, M.D., Artur V. Cideciyan, Ph.D., and Samuel Jacobson, M.D., Ph.D.; from the University of Florida: Barry J. Byrne, M.D., Ph.D., William W. Hauswirth, Ph.D., and Shalesh Kaushal, M.D., Ph.D.; from the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine in Naples: Alberto Auricchio, M.D., Sandro Banfi, Ph.D., and Enrico Surace, V.M.D.; from Università degli Studi di Napoli: Francesca Simonelli, M.D., Settimio Rossi, M.D., and Francesco Testa, M.D.; and from University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital: Robin Ali, Ph.D., James Bainbridge, M.D., Ph.D., Anthony Moore, M.D., and Gary Rubin, Ph.D.

Also recognized at Day of Science was Yvonne Chester, secretary of the board of directors for FFB, who was awarded with the esteemed Builders of Sight Award. This award recognized Yvonne for her devotion to the Foundation, and her exemplary service as an officer and secretary. Her outstanding leadership and counsel has helped FFB move forward in its mission to find cures for all retinal degenerative diseases.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is the largest source of non-governmental funding for retinal degenerative disease research in the world. The urgent mission of the Foundation Fighting Blindness is to drive the research that will provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome, and the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases.  More than 10 million people are affected by retinal degenerative diseases in the U.S. With an aging population in the U.S., the number of people affected by retinal degenerative diseases is expected to increase by 50% by 2020.

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