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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
22-Jan-2014

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Contact: Mary Leach
Mary_Leach@meei.harvard.edu
617-573-4170
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

Mass. Eye and Ear physician awarded RPB Career Development Award

Boston (Jan. 22, 2014) The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology has been granted a $250,000 Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) Career Development Award to support eye research conducted by Jason I. Comander, M.D., Ph.D. The support will be provided over a four-year period.

The RPB Career Development Award Fund was established in 1990 to attract young physicians and basic scientists to eye research. To date, the program has given awards to 174 vision research scientists in departments of ophthalmology at universities across the country.

Dr. Comander's current research efforts are focused on studying patients with inherited retinal degenerations, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which is caused by genetic mutations inherited from one or both parents. Most people who suffer from RP typically experience a steady visual decline during their lifetime, with many patients becoming blind. The disease affects approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. and 2 million people worldwide.

A clinician scientist, Dr. Comander is a member of the Retina Service and the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations at Mass. Eye and Ear. He also conducts research as a member of the Ocular Genomics Institute at Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School. With support from the RPB grant, Dr. Comander intends to develop and apply techniques for high-throughput functional characterization of human genetic variation and mutation in retinitis pigmentosa.

"This research addresses a major challenge in understanding the mechanisms that underlie the pathology of inherited retinal disease, and will help us determine which gene misspellings in patients are disease-causing and which are benign," says Dr. Comander. "This is an important time in the field of inherited retinal degenerations, when early successes with gene therapy and molecular diagnostics need to be expanded and translated into broad clinical use."

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About Mass. 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 among the top hospitals in the nation. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.

About RPB

RPB is the world's leading voluntary organization supporting eye research. Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to medical institutions throughout the United States for research into all blinding eye diseases. For more information on RPB, RPB-funded research, eye disorders and the RPB Grants Program, go to http://www.rpbusa.org.



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