Professor receives award for development of anti-angiogenic therapy for retinal disease

Napoleone Ferrara, MD, distinguished professor of pathology and distinguished adjunct professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and senior deputy director for basic sciences at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, was named today as one of seven recipients of the Ant-nio Champalimaud Vision Award in Lisbon, Portugal.

The 2014 Ant-nio Champalimaud Vision Award was bestowed for the development of anti-angiogenic therapy for retinal disease. Anti-angiogenic therapy is used to treat age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, which are the leading causes of blindness in high- and middle-income countries. Both are rising in prevalence due to an aging population and increased obesity rates.

Ferrara was recognized for the discovery of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), for exposing the role of this molecule in promoting angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels), his co-discovery of the role of VEGF in retinal disease and the development of the monoclonal antibody drug ranibizumab (marketed as Lucentis), which treats wet age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease and other related disorders.

Ferrara shared the award with six researchers from Harvard Medical School: Joan W. Miller, MD, and Evangelos S. Gragoudas, MD, both of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School; Patricia A. D'Amore, PhD, of the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear; Anthony P. Adamis, MD, of Genentech; and George L. King, MD, and Lloyd Paul Aiello, MD, PhD, both of Joslin Diabetes Center.

The work of this year's awardees begins with the identification of VEGF by Ferrara, to the collaborative revelation of its role in retinal-vascular disease, to the experimental evaluation of VEGF inhibition in animal models and its final application with a pharmacologic intervention that significantly improves the vision of patients affected by these often devastating retinal conditions.

The award, presented by the Champalimaud Foundation, is given alternately between contributions to overall vision research (even numbered years) and contributions to the alleviation of visual problems, primarily in developing countries (odd numbered years). The honor comes with a $1.3 million prize, the largest such award given in vision and ophthalmology research. It will be shared among the seven recipients.

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