Long Island native Michael Kalberer has a knack for connecting with everyone around him, despite being born with cerebral palsy (CP), a disorder that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance. The condition can also cause vision loss. At the age of 12, Michael noticed issues with his depth perception and visual field, which resulted in a diagnosis that he was legally blind. At 33 years old, he was finally diagnosed, specifically, with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Continue Reading…
Last summer, Kai Wang devoured 12 audio books on science and engineering feats like the Golden Gate Bridge, atomic bombs, and the cotton gin. He listened to the books over and over — some as many as five times. One of his favorite titles was “Rocket Men,” a 400-page book for adults on Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. He finished it in a week.
Kai enjoys talking with his mom, Mina, about everything he learns and reads. But it’s not just banter for him — he’s often quizzing her to see what she knows.
ProQR, a biotech company in the Netherlands, has reported vision improvements for patients in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial for QR-110, a therapy for people with Leber congenital amaurosis 10 (LCA10), which is caused by the p.Cys998X mutation in the CEP290 gene. The mutation is estimated to affect about 2,000 people in the Western world.
The company reported that 60 percent of subjects in the trial demonstrated improvements in visual acuity and their ability to navigate a mobility course. The treatment was also safe for patients. Continue Reading…
At the annual ARVO research conference in Honolulu, I had an opportunity to talk with FFB-funded researcher Shannon Boye, PhD, University of Florida, about her advancement of gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis (GUCY2D mutations) toward a clinical trial.
Ashley and Cole Carper traveled from Little Rock, AR, to tell their family’s story at the FDA hearing.
Spark Therapeutics has taken a major step closer to gaining marketing approval for its vision-restoring gene therapy for people with RPE65 mutations causing Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and retinitis pigmentosa. At the conclusion of a public hearing on October 12, 2017, an advisory committee comprised of FDA-selected experts voted unanimously – 16 to 0 – to recommend approval. The FDA is due to make a final decision on marketing approval for the treatment, known as voretigene neparvovec, by January 12, 2018.
The event held at FDA headquarters included the presentation of trial results from Spark representatives, as well as compelling testimony from patients, family members, and industry stakeholders.
Twenty-four-year-old Katelyn Corey told hearing attendees that before receiving the treatment, her constant adaptation to dwindling vision didn’t leave time for much else in her life. But her circumstances changed dramatically in December 2013, after she received the RPE65 gene therapy in Spark’s Phase III clinical trial. Continue Reading…
William Beltran, Artur Cideciyan, Gustavo Aguirre and Samuel Jacobson. Photo by John Donges/Penn Vet
When scientists embark on developing a treatment for an inherited retinal disease, one of their first tasks is to identify or create a model of the condition. Disease models can be cells in a Petri dish, a genetically engineered mouse or rat, or larger animal such as a pig. Each type of model has its pros and cons, including cost and similarity of disease characteristics to those in humans.
The investigators then use the model to study how vision is lost — that is, they figure out which types of retinal cells degenerate, what is causing the degeneration, and how quickly the cells stop working. After they gain an understanding of the disease, researchers evaluate potential therapeutic approaches using the model as a testing platform.
Considering all that Richard Weleber, M.D., has accomplished over four decades —
including leadership and oversight of clinical trials for emerging retinal-disease therapies and innovations in retina imaging and functional evaluation at the world-renowned Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health & Science University — it comes as no surprise that he’s been given FFB’s Llura Liggett Gund Award for career achievement. Dr. Weleber became the 10th recipient of the Foundation’s highest honor, named after FFB co-founder Lulie Gund, during the opening lunch of the VISIONS 2016 conference. Continue Reading…
For the second year in a row, the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ national conference — this year titled VISIONS 2016 — will take place in FFB’s founding city of Baltimore, Maryland, June 30-July 3. More than 500 people are expected to attend the event, which will offer dozens of research- and lifestyle-focused sessions designed for people who are visually impaired and sighted as well. Continue Reading…
It’s apropos that Rare Disease Day 2016 will be held on the rarest day on the calendar—Leap Day, February 29.
However, collectively, rare diseases are not uncommon. About 30 million Americans, nearly 10 percent of our population, are affected by one of 7,000 rare diseases. They’re an important public health issue, making it incumbent upon us to work hard to eradicate them. Continue Reading…
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