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."