Mass. Eye and Ear/HMS Dept. of Ophthalmology Researchers Earn Highest Honors from ARVO and Recognized for Champalimaud Vision Award

May 04, 2015

Contact: Mary Leach 

BOSTON (May 4, 2015) –Two prominent faculty members of the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology and Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute will receive prestigious 2015 achievement awards today at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Annual Meeting being held this week, May 3 through 7 in Denver, Colorado. In addition, on Tuesday, May 5, the winners of the 2014 António Champalimaud Vision Award―including six HMS researchers―will be recognized at a special Champalimaud Foundation lecture and event held during the ARVO conference. ARVO is the largest and most respected eye and vision research organization in the world. Its members include more than 12,750 researchers from over 80 countries.

damore web
Dr. Pat D'Amore

Patricia D’Amore, Ph.D., MBA, FARVO, is the recipient of the 2015 Proctor Medal. Dr. D’Amore is Director of Research at Schepens Eye Research Institute, as well as the Charles L. Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology and Professor of Pathology at HMS. Joan W. Miller, M.D., FARVO is the recipient of the ARVO Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology. Dr. Miller is the Henry Willard Williams Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at HMS, and Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital. Both award recipients will deliver award lectures at the ARVO Annual Meeting.

The Proctor Medal honors Dr. D’Amore’s outstanding research contributions in the basic or clinical sciences as applied to ophthalmology. Established in 1949, the Proctor Medal is named for Dr. Francis I. Proctor, an ophthalmologist who conducted extensive research on the etiology and treatment of trachoma. This was the first ophthalmology-related award to recognize basic scientists in the field. Dr. D’Amore will present an award lecture entitled “Regulation of Retinal Vascular Growth: Development, Pathology and Therapeutics.”

“ARVO is honored to have Dr. D’Amore as the recipient of the 2015 Proctor Medal,” said William Mieler, M.D., FARVO, President of ARVO.  “Her outstanding research on vascular growth and development throughout her career will continue the tradition of superb and highly deserving Proctor Medal recipients. We all look forward to her Proctor Medal Lecture at the ARVO 2015 annual meeting.” 

Dr. Joan Miller

The 2015 Mildred Weisenfeld Award recognizes Dr. Joan Miller’s distinguished scholarly contributions to the clinical practice of ophthalmology. The award was established as a tribute to Ms. Weisenfeld's outstanding contributions to the field, which include the founding of Fight for Sight in 1946, a not-for-profit foundation that provides promising scientists funding for eye research. Dr. Miller is the first woman to ever receive this honor, and will present the Weisenfeld Award Lecture entitled “Beyond VEGF.”

“Dr. Miller's leading-edge research on ocular angiogenesis has changed the lives of vision-impaired persons across the globe,” said Justine Smith, Ph.D., FRANZCO, FARVO, Immediate Past President of ARVO. “She is most deserving of this very important ARVO Achievement Award.”

Drs. D’Amore and Miller have been at the forefront of angiogenesis and vision research for over three decades. Their foremost contributions include the identification of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as the elusive “Factor X” that causes pathological blood vessel growth in blinding neovascular eye diseases. These investigations formed the scientific foundations of anti-VEGF therapies, which were first approved for clinical use in 2004 and currently used to treat various cancers and ocular vascular diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

António Champalimaud Vision Award and Lecture
Established by The Champalimaud Foundation in 2006, the António Champalimaud Vision Award is the highest distinction in ophthalmology and visual science, and honors outstanding contributions to the preservation and understanding of sight. In even-numbered years, the award is given for vision research, and in alternate years it recognizes efforts to alleviate visual problems in developing countries or through humanitarian endeavors. The 2014 Champalimaud Vision Award was given “for the development of anti-angiogenic therapy for retinal disease” and presented last fall at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal. Among the 2014 Champalimaud Laureates are six HMS researchers: Joan W. Miller, M.D., Evangelos S. Gragoudas, M.D., and Patricia A. D’Amore, Ph.D., MBA, of Massachusetts Eye and Ear; Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D., of Mass. Eye and Ear and Joslin Diabetes Center; George L. King, M.D., of Joslin Diabetes Center; and Anthony P. Adamis, M.D., of Genentech, who is also affiliated with HMS Ophthalmology and Mass. Eye and Ear. Napoleone Ferrara, M.D., of University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center, also received the award. 

On Tuesday, May 5, Drs. Ferrara and Miller will present the Champalimaud Vision Award Lecture. Dr. Ferrara’s presentation is entitled “Discovery of VEGF-A, a Key Regulator of Intraocular Neovascularization,” and Dr. Miller will present “VEGF: from Discovery to Therapy.”

“The number of researchers who have pursued the origins and identity of what we now call VEGF has been legion; a quest that consumed more than half a century,” said Alfred Sommer, Chairman of the António Champalimaud Vision Award Jury and University Distinguished Service Professor and Dean Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University. “It is especially gratifying to recognize six researchers, many of whom worked or studied with the late Dr. Judah Folkman, who did so much to popularize the concept before the elusive molecule was ever isolated, for their contributions to understanding its role in a variety of ocular diseases; and Napoleone Ferrara, who was the first to clone VEGF and develop a therapeutically active variant to block its action.”

About Harvard Medical School 
Harvard Medical School (hms.harvard.edu) has more than 7,500 full-time faculty working in 11 academic departments located at the School’s Boston campus or in one of 47 hospital-based clinical departments at 16 Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes. Those affiliates include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Hebrew Senior Life, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judge Baker Children’s Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and VA Boston Healthcare System.