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Lighthouse Guild Recognizes 2 Achievers in Vision Research

Awards were given to Dr. Vladimir Kefalov and Dr. Tiffany Schmidt.

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(Left to Right) 2019 Bressler Prize recipient Vladimir Kefalov, PhD; Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, President and CEO, Lighthouse Guild, and 2019 Pisart Award recipient Tiffany Schmidt, PhD

(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK – Lighthouse Guild, a not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization, presented the Bressler Prize to Dr. Vladimir Kefalov and the Pisart Award to Dr. Tiffany Schmidt at the 2019 Alfred W. Bressler Vision Science Symposium and Pisart Seminar in New York on Oct. 5.

“These two outstanding researchers, chosen by an independent panel of judges who are leading physicians and scientists in the field of vision care and research, are being recognized for their significant contributions to vision science and research,” said Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild.

The theme of the Symposium was “Understanding and Preserving Photoreceptor Function.” Kefalov’s lecture was entitled “Mechanisms Mediating the Function of Cone Photoreceptors and Daytime Vision.” Schmidt’s lecture was entitled “Illuminating Visual Circuits.”

Dr. Kefalov, Bressler Prize Recipient

Kefalov, one of the leading retinal scientists in the world, is a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, and the Department of Neuroscience, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. His work has generated new insights into mechanisms of multiple human vision disorders, including the causes of photoreceptor dysfunction and degeneration, which affect color and night vision, that are spurring treatments for vision loss.

Every year since 2003, the Bressler Prize has recognized a mid-career vision clinician or scientist whose leadership, research and service have led to important advancements in the understanding of vision loss, treatment of eye disease, or the rehabilitation of people with vision loss.

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“I am humbled to be named the recipient of the prestigious Bressler Prize,” said Kefalov. “I am honored to be recognized for my research contributions and believe the Bressler Prize will further energize our efforts to study the mechanisms of human vision disorders.”

Dr. Schmidt – Pisart Award Recipient

Schmidt was recognized for her significant contributions in sensory research and circadian biology, which is advancing the understanding of adult retinal function and retinal development. Schmidt is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Associate Director of the Neurobiology Master’s Program at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

The Pisart Award recognizes an early-career vision clinician or scientist whose contributions have the potential to substantially influence vision care and/or vision science and has a proven record of accomplishment.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the 2019 Pisart Award,” said Schmidt. “I share Lighthouse Guild’s commitment to improving the lives of people with vision loss and look forward to further advancing our understanding of the circuits by which light influences our behavior and physiology.”

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CooperVision Names Senior Brand Marketing Director for Myopia Management in North America

She has more than 20 years of professional experience in the healthcare space.

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Jane Agbontaen

(PRESS RELEASE) SAN RAMON, CA — CooperVision has named Jane Agbontaen as senior brand director for Myopia Management – Americas. In this newly created role, Agbontaen will be responsible for the strategic planning and execution of all activities that support the U.S. growth of CooperVision’s myopia management portfolio, specifically the Brilliant Futures Myopia Management Program with MiSight 1 day, the first and only FDA-approved product1 clinically proven to slow the progression of myopia when initially prescribed for children 8-12 years old in the U.S.

Agbontaen’s role includes cross-functional and cross-business support to ensure CooperVision’s MiSight 1 day commercialization strategy is successful. Growing the portfolio includes touchpoints with eyecare practitioners and patients, as well as healthcare and legislative ecosystems that govern children’s health and wellness.

“With the FDA approval of MiSight and the impending roll out of our Brilliant Futures Myopia Management Program, we require an evolution of our sales and marketing approach as we take on the rising epidemic of childhood myopia. Going forward, broadening our scope of healthcare provider alliances and industry partnerships are essential elements of shaping the standard of care in myopia management,” said Simon Seshadri, vice president of marketing at CooperVision, North America. “Jane’s previous experiences and skills are a perfect fit for this role and to help us achieve our desired outcomes. I’m delighted to have her onboard.”

Agbontaen has more than 20 years of professional experience in the healthcare space and with large medical device players such as Hologic, Abbot Medical Optics and Johnson & Johnson DePuy Synthes. While at Abbot Medical Optics, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care during her tenure, Agbontaen managed a broad brand portfolio in the cataracts segment, including intraocular lenses and instruments. Agbontaen received her bachelor’s degree from Long Island University and her MBA from the Stern School at New York University.

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OGI Eyewear Names Chief Creative Officer

He will not only lead creative development but will also serve as partner.

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(PRESS RELEASE) OGI Eyewear, a member of The Optical Foundry, announces the appointment of David Duralde as chief creative officer. Duralde has joined the company not only to lead creative development but also as a partner.

Duralde’s distinguished optical career is marked by extensive experience both with licensed and independent brands, including his most recent role as Chief Creative Officer at Kenmark Eyewear. “I am very excited about the opportunity to redefine and reinvigorate the niche independent brands in the OGI portfolio of products and provide a consistent, compelling story to the brands. I can’t wait to get started with the OGI
Eyewear product and marketing teams to connect deeply with our loyal customers, create frames that light up many more faces and help independent practices thrive and shine in this vigorously changing market.” said Duralde.

Robert Rich, CEO of OGI, notes, “David is exactly the right person to lead us in the revitalization of our brand portfolio. Despite a solid market position, OGI and its family of brands will benefit from an injection of fresh ideas and design innovations that will expand our leading role in the realm of affordable luxury frames.”

Rich adds, “This is a homecoming of sorts for David, having begun his formative optical design training at l.a.Eyeworks, another member of the Optical Foundry.”

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First US Patient Gets Wireless Retinal Device Implant

It’s aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

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(PRESS RELEASE) PITTSBURGH – UPMC has implanted the first patient in the U.S. with a new wireless retinal device as part of a clinical trial aimed at restoring partial sight to patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration.

“Vision research has advanced dramatically in the recent past and UPMC is at the forefront of this revolution. This is the first of many such breakthroughs led by UPMC and Pitt that will benefit patients with vision loss in our community and around the world,” said José-Alain Sahel, MD, director of the UPMC Eye Center, Eye and Ear Foundation chair of ophthalmology and distinguished professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who initiated the trial at UPMC. “We are proud to be the first center in the United States to test this next generation retinal implant that could help treat an incurable disease like AMD.”

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The system, called PRIMA, is designed to restore sight in patients blinded by retinal degeneration. It consists of a 2 millimeter-by-2 millimeter, 30-micron thick miniaturized wireless photovoltaic chip placed under the damaged retina. It works in tandem with augmented reality glasses that have a built-in miniaturized camera and infrared projector.

The chip acts like a tiny artificial retina, made up of 378 tiny electrodes that convert infrared light from the glasses to electrical signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain. After receiving the implant, patients undergo an intensive rehabilitation program that trains their brains to understand and interpret the signals from the implant in combination with their remaining natural vision. Compared to earlier-generation implants, PRIMA is wireless and has significantly more electrodes, which allows for the transmission of more visual information.

“This is an incredibly exciting first for us at UPMC and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Joseph Martel, MD, the implanting surgeon at the UPMC Eye Center and the Pitt School of Medicine, and the principal investigator of the trial at UPMC. “I’m grateful to our patients who have volunteered to participate in this trial, without whom this would not be possible.”

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people older than 50. Today, it affects approximately 14 million people in the United States, and the prevalence is expected to rise as the baby boomers age. As AMD progresses, the center of vision becomes increasingly blurry. “Atrophic” AMD, which accounts for a large proportion of advanced cases, has no curative treatment available.

The UPMC feasibility trial is running in parallel with the first-in-human trial in France, which involves five patients with advanced AMD, who now have been followed for more than a year. The 12-month results from the French study demonstrated the ability of most patients to identify sequences of letters and there were no device-related serious adverse effects.

“We are working with a great sense of urgency because the aging population of the United States, especially the western Pennsylvania region we live in, will see a significant rise in the number of patients at risk for vision loss through diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and vascular eye disease, as well as earlier onset genetic conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa,” said Sahel. “This is why our physicians and researchers at UPMC and Pitt, in collaboration with our U.S. and international colleagues — especially at the Paris Vision Institute at Sorbonne University — are taking a multi-pronged effort to treat and rehabilitate patients with vision impairments.”

In March 2019, UPMC broke ground on the UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Tower at UPMC Mercy, which when completed, will provide advanced specialty clinical care and innovative programs for visually impaired patients. It also will be the home for the vision research program at Pitt and UPMC.

The PRIMA implant was invented by Daniel Palanker, professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, and licensed and developed by Pixium Vision, a spin-off from the Paris Vision Institute. Sahel is a co-founder of Pixium and holds shares in the company.

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