Neena B. Haider, Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Member, PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Associate Scientist

Research Summary

Center/Research Area Affiliations


Dr. Haider has been involved in the field of genetics and retinal disease for more than 15 years. She aims to identify key genetic factors that modulate inherited retinal diseases, and she investigates the influence of genes on the multipotency of neural stem cells and retinal progenitors. She also develops and tests therapeutic targets for retinal degenerations (including AMD and diabetic retinopathy). She recently identified a genetic modifier that is able to ameliorate more than one form of inherited retinal degeneration, and has developed several unique genetic models to study the retinal and vascular phenotypes associated with macular degeneration.

For more information, download her CV [PDF].


Ph.D., Genetics, University of Iowa (1999)

Postgraduate Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor Maine

Her Story

Research Goals

  1. Identify the key genetic factors that influence the multipotency of retinal stem cells/progenitors
  2. Evaluate the genetic modifiers capable of ameliorating retinal disease
  3. Develop and test therapeutic targets for retinal degenerations, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.

Key Research Findings

The Haider Laboratory has been working for the past almost two decades on identifying broad spectrum genetic modifier genes that can ameliorate multiple forms of retinal degeneration. This work exemplifies her laboratory's use of mouse models and demonstrates how genes in the same functional network can affect phenotype. These findings have profound implications in developing broad therapeutics for many forms of disease with the same pathology. Her novel therapeutic targets  have been patented  and pre-clinical work is currently underway to bring this technology to the patients. The laboratory’s  research also revealed a novel role for vitamin D metabolism in the pathogenesis of age related macular degeneration and antioxidants in neuroprotection from light-induced retinal damage. Her laboratory has also developed unique genetic models to study the retinal and vascular phenotype associated with macular degeneration. Dr. Haider’s work uncovers a key role for nuclear hormone receptor genes in modulating homeostasis in the normal state and effectively reseting homeostasis as a therapeutic avenue to attenuate retinal disease and improve vision.


An internationally recognized expert in the field of genetics, Dr. Haider is frequently invited to present her findings at national, international professional meetings at academic and industrial institutions. She has been cited over 2000 times, four of which have been selected for the cover of the journals, including one in Nature Genetics.


Dr. Haider has established an academic goal of mentoring undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. Her aim is to help students develop the training and analytical skills needed to succeed in the medical sciences.

This strong interest and focus on the education of young scientists has been consistent throughout Dr. Haider's career. Upon her appointment as an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska, she initiated and developed a successful Advanced Molecular Genetics course. Additionally, she was Co-director for a core molecular biology course, taught genetics of retinal disease to ophthalmology residents, and was Director of the genetics portion of the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program.

Since joining Harvard Medical School as an Associate Professor in 2012, Dr. Haider has formally taught postdoctoral fellows, has led sections in a Cell Biology course for graduate students, and was an invited lecturer for the BBS 228 Genetics course. She developed her own course on functional genomics taught at HMS and  also helps teach ethics and grant writing. A key passion of Dr. Haider’s is to help young scientist succeed in balancing life. During her formal and informal  mentoring of many fellows she saw a common need and developed a life balance workshop. During this two hour workshop Dr. Haider teaches students stress management, to know their strengths and harness those strengths in balancing a successful life. Dr. Haider is an active member of the Joint Committee for the Status of Women and was elected by the Harvard University Dean’s Office to serve as a faculty chair for a task force on mentoring. Dr. Haider also serves as a mentor to over a dozen students through Harvard’s Harvard Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (HGWISE) mentorship program.Dr. Haider is an advisor on the Harvard-Vision Clinical Scientist Development Program with the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology. Through these various roles Dr. Haider provides a strong, positive, and firm commitment to nurture young scientists in their career.


Research Interests

  • Genetic factors that modulate inherited retina diseases
  • Influence of genes on the multipotency of neural stem cells and retinal progenitors
  • Novel therapeutic targets for retinal degenerations

Novel Genetic Model of Choroidal Neovascular AMD

The goal of this study is to identify the causative mutation and characterize the disease phenotype in a novel model of choroidal neovascular disease.

Genetic Causes of Macular Degeneration

The goal of this study is to use modern molecular genomics tools to identify causative alleles for macular degeneration.

Molecular Genetics of Inherited Retinal Disease

The goal of this study is to develop novel models for human retinal disease.

Genetic Modifiers of Photoreceptor Development and Maintenance

The goal of this study is to evaluate the potency of Nr2e3 and Nr1d1 as genetic modifiers that can prevent or ameliorate retinal degeneration in mouse models.

Precision Medicine

The Haider laboratory is developing a high throughput method to develop organoids from patients’ blood samples and evaluate them for best treatment. This is combined with whole genome sequence analysis to discover the mutational load that impacts a patient’s disease outcome. The goal is to determine for each patient what Is the best treatment strategy based on their genetic mutational load and how their cells respond to current treatment options. 


Selected Publications

Dr. Haider has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles. Below is a list of selected publications. View her publications on PubMed.

  1. Olivares AM, Althoff K, Chen GF, Wu S, Morrisson MA, DeAngelis MM, Haider N. Animal Models of Diabetic Retinopathy. Curr Diab Rep. 2017 08 24; 17(10):93.
  2. Olivares AM, Han Y, Soto D, Flattery K, Marini J, Mollema N, Haider A, Escher P, DeAngelis MM, Haider NB. The nuclear hormone receptor gene Nr2c1 (Tr2) is a critical regulator of early retina cell patterning. Dev Biol. 2017 09 01; 429(1):343-355.
  3. Olivares AM, Jelcick AS, Reinecke J, Leehy B, Haider A, Morrison MA, Cheng L, Chen DF, DeAngelis MM, Haider NB. Multimodal Regulation Orchestrates Normal and Complex Disease States in the Retina. Sci Rep. 2017 04 06; 7(1):690. 
  4. Olivares AM, Moreno-Ramos OA, Haider NB. Role of Nuclear Receptors in Central Nervous System Development and Associated Diseases. J Exp Neurosci. 2015; 9(Suppl 2):93-121. 
  5. Moreno-Ramos OA, Olivares AM, Haider NB, de Autismo LC, Lattig MC. Whole-Exome Sequencing in a South American Cohort Links ALDH1A3, FOXN1 and Retinoic Acid Regulation Pathways to Autism Spectrum Disorders. PLoS One. 2015; 10(9):e0135927.
  6. Hasegawa E, Sweigard H, Husain D, Olivares AM, Chang B, Smith KE, Birsner AE, D'Amato RJ, Michaud NA, Han Y, Vavvas DG, Miller JW, Haider NB, Connor KM. Characterization of a spontaneous retinal neovascular mouse model. PLoS One. 2014; 9(9):e106507. 
  7. Cruz NM, Yuan Y, Leehy BD, Baid R, Kompella U, DeAngelis MM, Escher P, Haider NB. Modifier genes as therapeutics: the nuclear hormone receptor Rev Erb alpha (Nr1d1) rescues Nr2e3 associated retinal disease. PLoS One. 2014; 9(1):e87942.