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Dr. Eliot Berson Receives Visionary Award from Foundation Fighting Blindness

Contact: Public Affairs
Ph.: 617-573-3341

BOSTON (June 27, 2012) – Eliot L. Berson, M.D., director of the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations located at the Mass. Eye and Ear, recently received the  Foundation Fighting Blindness Visionary Award. Mr. Gordon Gund, Chairman of the Maryland-based Foundation Fighting Blindness, presented Dr. Berson with the award at the foundation’s “Dining in the Dark” event on Thursday, June 21 at the Boston InterContinental Hotel. Other recipients awarded include Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick and Joshua S. Boger, Ph.D., founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, an international company headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. Mass. Eye and Ear President and CEO John Fernandez attended the event.

The Visionary Award was presented to Dr. Berson for his important role in research to advance the understanding of potentially blinding diseases and for the development of the first treatment for retinitis pigmentosa.

“Our studies have led to a better understanding of the causes of hereditary retinal degenerations at the DNA level and also have led to the first treatment for the common forms of retinitis pigmentosa. We have found that a high-dose of vitamin A combined with an oily fish diet and lutein will, on average, extend vision for up to 20 additional years, thereby making it possible for many patients with retinitis pigmentosa to see for their entire lives. We were also the first to show that high-dose vitamin E supplementation aggravates the course of these diseases,” said Dr. Berson during his speech.

Dr. Berson earned his degree from Harvard Medical School and has served as director of Mass. Eye and Ear Electroretinography Service since 1970 and as director of Harvard Medical School’s Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations at Mass. Eye and Ear since 1974. Dr. Berson is also the William F. Chatlos Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Berson’s recent Visionary Award was one of many other recognitions for his research including the Llura Liggett Gund Award also from the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Fransceschetti Award of the International Society for Genetic Eye Diseases, the Friedenwald Award of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the MERIT Award of the National Eye Institute, the Pisart Vision Award of the New York Lighthouse International and the Ludwig von Sallmann Prize from the International Congress of Eye Research.

About the Berman-Gund Laboratory at Mass. Eye and Ear
The Berman-Gund Laboratory performs multi-disciplined research to discover the causes, understand the pathogenesis, and seek means for treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, juvenile macular degeneration, choroideremia and allied retinal degenerative diseases.

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.  After uniting with Schepens Eye Research Institute in 2011, Mass. Eye and Ear in Boston became the world's largest vision and hearing research center, offering hope and healing to patients everywhere through discovery and innovation.  Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships.  Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex.  U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals Survey” has consistently ranked the Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology as top five in the nation.  For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.