September 6, 2016 - Lisbon, Portugal - The 2016 Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award recognises ground-breaking work that has illuminated our understanding of the way in which our eyes send signals to the appropriate areas of the brain. This work, developed by John Flanagan, Christine Holt, Carol Mason and Carla Shatz, may offer hope of fighting vision disorders by means of neurological therapies.
In order for us to see, specific sites in our brains must receive signals from specific cells in our two eyes. Neuronal projections from these retinal cells must make navigational decisions on their way to their targeted destinations in the brain, as these are essential to forming an accurate map of the visual world. Our vision is critically dependent upon these synaptic connections between the retina and their corresponding sites in the higher visual centres of the brain.
When retinal projections are not formed correctly, vision formed in the brain becomes abnormal and our ability to see is greatly impaired. The link that the 2016 Antonio Champalimaud Vision Award winners have established between the eyes and the brain opens up the potential to cure certain vision disorders via neurological treatments. Therapies targeting the brain and its capacity to accurately receive projections from the retina may therefore hold the key to unlocking new types of treatment and to bringing sight to those unable to see as a result of poorly established synaptic connections.
Much of what we currently know about the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in establishing and sculpting the patterns of retinal projections comes from the individual and collective efforts of Drs. Flanagan, Holt, Mason and Shatz. Their work has shone light on the connection between the two fundamental organs responsible for vision - the eye and the brain - and their ground-breaking work has greatly advanced our understanding of the visual system.
About the António Champalimaud Vision Award - The António Champalimaud Vision Award was launched in 2006 and is supported by the World Health Organisation's 'Vision 2020 - The Right to Sight' programme. The award, worth 1 million Euros, is the largest in the world in the area of Vision. In odd-numbered years, the Award recognises work developed on the ground by institutions in the prevention of and fight against blindness and vision disorders, mainly in developing countries. In even-numbered years, the Award goes to far-reaching scientific research in the area of vision. In 2007, the Vision Award went to the Aravind Eye Care System in India and in 2008 it was awarded jointly to the laboratories of King-Wai Yau and Jeremy Nathans, of Johns Hopkins University; in the 2009 edition the work of Helen Keller International was recognised, while in 2010 it went to J. Anthony Movshon (University of New York) and William T. Newsome (Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of Stanford). In 2011 the prize was awarded to APOC (African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control) and in 2012 to two groups of scientists: James Fujimoto, David Huang, Carmen Puliafito, Joel Schuman and Eric Swanson, and David R. Williams. In 2013 four Nepalese organisations won: the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh (NNJS), Eastern Regional Eye Care Programme (Sagarmatha Choudhary Eye Hospital and Biratnagar Eye Hospital) and the Lumbini Eye Institute. In 2014 the prize went to seven scientists: Napoleone Ferrara, Joan W. Miller, Evangelos S. Gragoudas, Patricia A. D'Amore, Anthony P. Adamis, George L. King and Lloyd Paul Aiello. In 2015 the awardees were three institutions: Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, Seva Foundation and Seva Canada. The Award Jury comprises international scientists and prominent public figures involved in the fight against the problems experienced in developing countries. Members: Alfred Sommer, Paul Sieving, Jacques Delors, Amartya Sen, Carla Shatz, Joshua Sanes, Mark Bear, Gullapalli Rao, José Cunha-Vaz, António Guterres and Susumu Tonegawa.