Scientific Advisory Board
Kapil Bharti, PhD
Dr. Kapil Bharti holds a bachelor’s degree in Biophysics from the Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, a master’s degree in biotechnology from the M.S. Rao University, Baroda, India, and a diploma in molecular cell biology from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany. He obtained his Ph.D. from the same institution, graduating summa cum laude. His Ph.D. work involved research in the areas of heat stress, chaperones, and epigenetics. He did his postdoc at the National Institutes of Health, where he published numerous papers in the areas of transcription regulation, pigment cell biology, and developmental biology of the eye. He has won several awards, including, most recently, being selected as an Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator at NIH. His lab was recently awarded two prestigious grants: 1) the only Intramural Common Fund grant to develop a phase I Investigational New Drug (IND) for Autologous induced pluripotent stem cell derived retinal pigment epithelium tissue; and 2) a DoD grant to develop a 3D-retina tissue to model retinal diseases in vitro. His current work as the head of the Unit on Ocular and Stem Cell Translational Research involves understanding mechanism of retinal degenerative diseases using induced pluripotent stem cell technology, and developing cell-based and drug-based therapies for such diseases.
Eric A. Pierce, MD, PhD
Dr. Eric A. Pierce, is the Solman and Libe Friedman Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute, Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations, and Director of the Inherited Retinal Disorders Service in the Department of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Pierce received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He did his residency in Ophthalmology at Harvard and fellowship in Pediatric Ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston where he also took his first faculty position. He was then recruited to the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. He returned to Harvard in 2011 to establish the Ocular Genomics Institute. He became Director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory and Inherited Retinal Disorders Service in 2014. His research program is focused on understanding the molecular bases of inherited retinal degenerations, and developing gene and genetic therapies for these conditions.
Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD
Dr. Paul Sieving is known internationally for studies of human progressive blinding genetic retinal neurodegenerations, including retinitis pigmentosa, and rodent models of these conditions. His laboratory study of pharmacological approaches to slowing degeneration in transgenic animal models led to the first human clinical trial of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) for retinitis pigmentosa, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, in 2006. He developed a mouse model of X-linked retinoschisis and is embarking on human ocular gene therapy for this condition. He served as the Paul R. Lichter Professor of Ophthalmic Genetics and the founding director of the Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School. After undergraduate work in history and physics at Valparaiso University, Dr. Sieving studied nuclear physics at Yale Graduate School in 1970-73 under D. Allan Bromley and attended Yale Law School from 1973-74. He received his M.D. from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois Graduate College in 1981. Dr. Sieving completed an ophthalmology residency at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary in Chicago. After post-doctoral study of retinal physiology with Roy H. Steinberg in 1982-83 at the University of California, San Francisco, he did a clinical fellowship in genetic retinal degenerations with Eliot Berson in 1984-85 at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Dr. Sieving served as vice chair for clinical research for the Foundation Fighting Blindness from 1996-2001. He is on the Bressler Vision Award committee and is a jury member for the €1 million annual Vision Award of the Champalimaud Foundation, Portugal. He was elected to membership in the American Ophthalmological Society in 1993, the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis in 2005, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006, and the German National Academy of Sciences in 2014. He received an honorary Doctor of Science from Valparaiso University in 2003 and has been named among the “Best Doctors in America” multiple years. He has received many awards, including the Research to Prevent Blindness Senior Scientific Investigator Award in 1998, the Alcon Research Institute Award in 2000, and the Pisart Vision Award from the New York Lighthouse International in 2005.
James A. Thomson, PhD, DVM
Dr. James Thomson has conducted pioneering work in the isolation and culture of non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells—undifferentiated cells that can proliferate without limit and have the ability to become any of the differentiated cells of the body. As a research tool, the human embryonic stem cell (ESC) is broadly enabling, allowing unprecedented access to the cellular components of the human body, with applications in basic research, drug discovery and transplantation medicine. Dr. Thomson directed the group that reported the first isolation of ESC lines from a non-human primate in 1995, work that led his group to the first successful isolation of human embryonic stem cell lines in 1998. In 2007, Dr. Thomson’s lab reported (contemporaneously with Dr. Shinya Yamanaka) the first isolation of human induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have the basic properties of human ESCs but are derived from somatic cells rather than human embryos. Dr. Thomson’s has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including two “Scientific Breakthrough of the Year” honors from the journal Science; cover-story coverage in Time magazine, which named him one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People” in 2008; and the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research in 2011. His specific research interests include: Examining the transcriptional networks in pluripotent cells that mediate self-renewal and commitment to each of the basic lineages during development; mapping the epigenome of pluripotent cells and their early-differentiated derivatives; improving methods for generating human iPSCs, and correcting genetic defects in iPSCs generated from patients with degenerative diseases; developing new strategies to convert human pluripotent stem and somatic cells into hematopoietic, vascular, and cardiac progenitor cells; and understanding clocking mechanisms that control developmental rates.