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Botond Roska wins International Prize for Translational Neuroscience

Prof. Dr. Botond Roska
Prof. Dr. Botond Roska.

Botond Roska, professor at the University of Basel and director at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), has been awarded the International Prize for Translational Neuroscience by the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation. He received the prize with Professor José-Alain Sahel, a Chairman of the IOB Scientific Advisory Board.

22 June 2023

Prof. Dr. Botond Roska
Prof. Dr. Botond Roska.

Botond Roska and his long-time scientific partner José-Alain Sahel receive the award in recognition of their pioneering work on restoring vision to blind patients using optogenetic therapy,.

The International Prize for Translational Neuroscience has been awarded annually by the Gertrud Reemtsma Foundation since 1990. The prize honors and promotes outstanding scientific achievements in basic neurological research. It is endowed with 60,000 euros and will be awarded to the two researchers in Hamburg on 22 June 2023.

“It is with great appreciation that we receive this positive recognition from the neuroscience community,” said Roska. “For us to be listed among the prior award recipients – all of them are major names in the field – is a great honor.”

Restoring vision in mice and humans

Optogenetics is a way of creating light-sensitive cells using genes derived from algae. Roska was one of the first to apply this technique to restore vision in in blind mice.

After his investigations suggested promising opportunities for treating degenerative retinal diseases, Roska teamed with Sahel, who is currently chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the UPMC Vision Institute and also the chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of IOB.

In an unprecedented feat, they used optogenetic methods to restore vision in patients blinded by retinitis pigmentosa partially. This is the first demonstration of optogenetics in humans and a milestone in treating blinding conditions that affect millions of people worldwide.

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