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Foundation Partnership Cultivates Future Clinician-Researchers Focused on Retinal Diseases

Equal to the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ investment in cutting-edge research is its commitment to enabling bright young medical students to become the next generation of dedicated scientists pursuing vision-saving treatments and cures.

Partnering with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) for the third year in a row, the Foundation is funding two year-long fellowships for medical students interested in gaining valuable laboratory-based research experience related to retinal degenerative diseases.

“These budding clinician-researchers have the opportunity to make a major impact on countless lives by focusing their careers on saving and restoring sight,” says Dr. Stephen Rose, the Foundation’s chief research officer. “With more potential treatments entering clinical trials every year, we are very much in need of their talent and passion to conduct human studies in the future. This important partnership with HHMI helps fill the pipeline so first-rate minds continue to innovate in our field.”

The two Foundation-funded fellows will spend a year away from their medical studies and clinical rotations to gain intensive lab experience in their research areas of interest at esteemed institutions:

  • Under the mentorship of Dr. Ron Adelman and Dr. Lawrence Rizzolo, third-year Yale University School of Medicine student Haben Kefella will use stem cells to identify potential therapeutic approaches for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Under the mentorship of Dr. Jean Bennett, third-year University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine student Keirnan Willett will investigate the efficacy and safety of an optogenetic approach to restoring vision in retinitis pigmentosa.

Since the Foundation began partnering with HHMI in 2010, six medical students have been given the opportunity to pursue fellowships related to retinal research. One recipient was even awarded a second year of study in 2011 at Johns Hopkins University to focus on the role of nitric oxide in the development of AMD.

For more information on the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program, visit its website.  



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