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Highest Swiss Distinction in Ophthalmology & Swiss OphthAward 2021 goes to IOB

Carlo Rivolta and Dasha Nelidova have been awarded with the Alfred-Vogt Awards 2021 and Magdalena Renner and Cameron Cowan have received the Swiss OphthAward 2021.

The goal of the Alfred Vogt Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology is the advancement of research in Ophthalmology. The Alfred-Vogt Awards are the highest distinction in ophthalmology in Switzerland. We are proud that two of our researchers have been awarded in 2021: Carlo Rivolta, Head of our Ophthalmic Genetics Group, received the Alfred-Vogt Award for his research to establish new concepts on genomics of retinal diseases. Dasha Nelidova, PostDoc in our Human Retinal Circuits Group, received the Alfred-Vogt Recognition- and support-award, for her work to restore light sensitivity using tunable near-infrared sensors. Congratulations! Carlo and Dasha have been presented with the Awards at the 114th Annual Congress of the Swiss Association for Ophthalmology in St. Gallen.

For their work published in Cell 2020 (Cell Types of the Human Retina and Its Organoids at Single-Cell Resolution), Magdalena Renner and Cameron Cowan have received the Swiss OphthAward 2021. They succeeded in growing accurate replicas of human retinas. This achievement will accelerate the development of new therapies for eye diseases.

There is a fundamental unmet need to develop model retinas that closely resemble the real human organ, which would open up the possibility of developing treatments in a dish tailored to individual patients. No functional human retinas had ever been recovered before. “We therefore developed a method to preserve eye tissue with minimal oxygen deprivation, and demonstrated for the first time a human retina with intact responses to light post mortem. The retinal organoids, like the human retina, have a layered structure and they react in the same way to light," explains Cameron Cowan, Head of the IOB Scientific Computing Platform.

A comparison of organoids with retinas from multi-organ donors confirmed the strong similarities. “After 38 weeks in culture, the duration of a typical human pregnancy, our organoids contain many of the same cell types as an adult human retina,” says Magdalena Renner, Head of the IOB Human Organoid Platform

The researchers showed the high value of organoids for therapy development by demonstrating that retinal diseases map to the same sorts of cells in the organoids and real retinas. "We can grow retinal organoids from a patient’s blood or skin samples and use those to develop treatments in the laboratory that are tailored to that individual patient,” Magdalena Renner explains.