José-Alain Sahel, MD, Receives International Honors

February 14, 2023

José-Alain Sahel, MD, chair of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Ophthalmology and director of the UPMC Eye Center, together with his collaborator Botond Roska, PhD, of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, will receive the 2023 International Prize for Translational Neuroscience of the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation, which is administered by the Max Planck Society. The prize has been awarded for outstanding achievements in basic neurological research since 1990 and provides 50,000 Euros in funding; the Max Planck Society is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Munich, Germany, with more than 80 institutes and research facilities around the world.

Dr. Sahel was also recently promoted to Commander in the National Order of Merit by the government of France. Established in 1963, the Order honors French citizens who have made distinguished achievements in the service of others. Dr. Sahel first received the rank of officer in the National Order of Merit in 2012.

As one of the world’s top experts in retinal diseases and vision restoration research, Dr. Sahel has developed several interventions — including stem cell implantation, gene therapy, innovative pharmacologic approaches, optogenetics, and the artificial retina — for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, vascular eye disease and other vision impairments that currently are untreatable. Over the past decade, he has led pioneering efforts in optogenetic vision restoration, a technique in which cells in the retina are genetically modified to express light sensitive proteins. This therapeutic technique has the potential to help patients who are blind or visually impaired because of a genetic defect.