List of Center Faculty and their Goals:
John D. Ash– Dr. Ash is focused on both understanding the cause of blindness due to retinal degeneration and developing therapies to prevent loss of sight. His research is relevant to inherited retinal degenerations such as retinitis pigmentosa, cone-rod dystrophies, LCA, or age related macular degeneration.
Sanford L. Boye– Mr. Boye’s research area is focused on two things: the design, construction and utilization of AAV-based gene therapy vectors for the treatment of ocular disease, and the evaluation of efficacy, biodistribution and toxicity of clinically relevant AAV vectors.
Shannon E. Boye– Dr. Boye is developing a gene-replacement therapy for patients with Leber congenital amaurosis-1 (LCA1) caused by mutations in the gene GUCY2D. Lifetime restoration of visual behavior in animal models of the disease has been demonstrated and there is hope that this will be the first photoreceptor-targeted gene therapy to be applied in a clinical setting. She also seeks to expand the AAV ‘toolkit’ by developing novel AAV vectors capable of transducing photoreceptors following intravitreal injection as well as dual vector platforms capable of delivering large genes. In addition, Dr. Boye is developing bipolar-targeted gene therapies for the treatment of congenital stationary night blindness.
Anuj Chauhan-Dr. Chauhan’s group is working on developing novel systems for ophthalmic drug delivery. They are particularly focusing on contact lenses, conjunctival inserts and puncta plugs. The focus is to develop nanostructured devices to improve bioavailability and drug release profiles.
Thomas Conlon– Dr. Conlon functions as the study director on tox studies performed in IND enabling research of gene therapy for retinal disease. He also actively collaborates with Shannon Boye, Sanford Boye and Bill Hauswirth, especially on non-human primate studies.
Wen-Tao Deng– Dr. Deng is working to characterize proteins of phototransduction pathway to elucidate their contributions to the different functional properties between rods and cones and with recombinant AAV mediated gene therapy on mutation caused by Retinitis Pigmentosa GTPase Regulator (RPGR).
Astra Dinculescu– Dr. Dinculescu’s research is focused on developing therapeutic approaches for Usher syndrome type III (USH3A), an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in Clarin-1 (CLRN1) gene, leading to combined blindness and deafness. She is also interested in the pathological processes affecting the retinal pigment epithelium /Bruch’s membrane interface, and identifying the factors contributing to drusen formation in age-related macular degeneration.
Daniel Gibson– Dr. Gibson’s research focuses on the cellular and molecular time lines of wound healing, with a focus on understanding the roles and timing of cells, growth factors, and the matrix have on wound healing outcomes. In particular, he is now studying the events which lead healing wounds to stall and become chronic wounds, and what causes surgical wounds on the corneas to heal via either regenerative healing or to become vision impairing scars.
Eugene Gold– In the COE Dept. of Materials Science & Engineering Dr. Gold’s group has had a long standing (35 yrs.) research program concerning Cataract surgery and the development and properties of Intraocular Lenses. They pioneered the change from AC to PC lenses, UV absorbing IOLs, and first identified the problem of endothelial damage working initially with Dr. Herb Kaufman, then Chair of the UF Ophthalmology Department. With the advent of foldable acrylic copolymer IOLs, recent studies have centered on their nanosurface properties, i.e. hardness, modulus, changes in nanosurface morphology using AFM, and the effect of short-term and long-term hydration on surface properties.
Bill Hauswirth–Dr. Hauswirth has a long-term interest in the delivery and testing of potentially therapeutic genes for dominant, recessive and X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, Leber congenital amaurosis, achromatopsia, blue cone monochromacy, Usher’s disease, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and optic neuropathies in natural and transgenic animal models of each human disease.
Joseph Larkin III – The Larkin Group is investigating the contribution of T lymphocyte subsets and functions in maintaining tolerance, with a specific emphasis on Regulatory T cells (Tregs). The group has a current interest in modulating T lymphocyte effector functions that promote autoimmune diseases such as uveitis.
Al Lewin– Dr. Lewin’s laboratory has made a long-term commitment to developing gene therapy for inherited genetic diseases. Most of his work has focused on developing gene therapies for inherited or acquired diseases of the retina, including retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
Qiuhong Li– Dr. Li’s research focus is to study the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and develop therapies for treating DR.
Brendan Mangan – Dr. Mangan’s research is focused on ophthalmic diseases of large animals, particularly equine eyes.
Jijing Pang– Dr. Jijing Pang is working on different gene therapy projects related with animal models of inherited retinal degenerations, including Leber congenital amaurosis, achromatopsia, retinitis pigmentosa, stationary night blindness.
Caryn Plummer – Dr. Plummer works on the pharmacology and ocular drug delivery and penetration, particularly in small animals. Her specialties include equine corneal disease, primary open angle glaucoma in the dog, developing new surgical techniques for equine corneal disease, and corneal wound.
Gregory Schultz-Dr. Schultz’s lab focuses on understanding the molecular regulation of wound healing in the cornea and conjunctiva, and data indicate two growth factors, transforming growth factor beta (TGFb) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) play key roles in normal and excessive scarring. They are developing gene-specific therapies to selectively reduce excessive scarring with antisense oligonucleotides, siRNAs and ribozymes that target TGFb and CTGF mRNAs and are developing epigenetic approaches with histone deacethylase inhibitors to also reduce scarring.
Ed Scott – The Scott lab is attempting to elucidate factors required for lineage commitment during blood cell development. Of particular interest are transcription factors thought to influence lymphoid and myeloid differentiation.
Sue Semple-Rowland– Dr. Semple-Rowland’s laboratory studies the vertebrate retina from several perspectives. Photoreceptors serve as the focal point in many of their experiments. They examine the genes and proteins underlying normal photoreceptor function and how the expression of these molecules changes during development and over the course of disease. They are currently focusing on studies of LCA1 and on studies of circadian oscillators in photoreceptors.
Mark Sherwood– Dr. Sherwood’s research focuses on wound healing in glaucoma, new methods of delivering gene therapy for the retina, and methods to improve early detection of glaucoma.
W. Clay Smith– The Smith lab focuses on the cellular and molecular biology of signaling processes in rod and cone photoreceptors. These cascades are being explored for their potential use in preventing photoreceptor death in retinal degenerations that occur in later decades of life.
Stephen P. Sugrue– The long-term goal of research in the Sugrue lab is to elucidate the molecular determinants of the regulation of corneal epithelial cell phenotype.
Sonal Tuli– Dr. Tuli is the Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Tuli focuses on two basic areas in basic science: corneal scarring after excimer laser and wounds and Herpes simplex keratitis – prevention of initial infection and recurrence.