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UPMC Vision Institute Launches in New Facility

May 2, 2023

UPMC’s ophthalmology services have both a new name and a new home, as the UPMC Vision Institute opened in the UPMC Mercy Pavilion on May 1.

Harnessing both the academic and clinical missions of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Ophthalmology and UPMC, the UPMC Vision Institute leverages our global leadership in health care and scientific research with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, scientists, engineers, and allied experts to provide novel therapies, facilitate the movement of research from the bench to the bedside, enhance the treatment experience, and improve quality of life for patients with visual impairments.


“Our goal is to prevent vision loss and restore sight,” said José-Alain Sahel, MD, distinguished professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the UPMC Vision Institute. “And this new facility gives us an opportunity to build new models of care for our patients, to learn from them, and to develop new and better therapies not only for the people who will visit us in this new building, but around the world.”


Clinical services in the pavilion include comprehensive ophthalmology, optometry, specialty care for the cornea, retina, optic nerve, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, genetic conditions, and oculoplastic and aesthetic services, a robust refractive surgery program, urgent eye care for acute vision conditions, a full-service optical shop, and a dedicated clinical trials center offering some therapies that are not available outside of Pittsburgh.


Researchers are colocalized with physicians in the new pavilion, with more than 100,000 square feet of space dedicated to scientific discovery. The Vision Institute encompasses more than 22 laboratories and six core facilities that explore the visual systems and how and why they are affected by disease, in order to develop new therapeutic approaches.


“Uniting our clinical and research teams under one roof allows for a more rapid translation of science from the bench to the bedside,” said Sahel, who has led pioneering efforts and several first-in-human trials such as optogenetic vision restoration, a technique in which retinal cells are genetically modified to express light-sensitive proteins. “We look forward to ongoing collaborations across our disciplines, which range from clinical imaging or cell biology to virology and everything in between.”


Designed to facilitate not only collaboration among colleagues but also the patient/physician relationship, the new facility includes a range of amenities aimed at supporting independence and fostering an inclusive, welcoming environment, including a life skills apartment, rooftop sensory garden, and street simulation lab – which enables physicians and experts to assess a patient’s vision in real-world scenarios to guide treatment planning and assess therapeutic efficacy – high-contrast, accessible signage and wayfinding elements, and commissioned artwork. Additional community resources include a retail pharmacy, café (opening in summer 2023), and meeting rooms for public use.


“This is such an exciting time for our team members, and for our patients and their families,” Sahel said. “The opening of our new home, under our new name, represents both great achievement and great possibility. I look forward to seeing how the promises will materialize.”


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