Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine and the world of medicinal therapy

Montage of DNA strand, human face, and molecules.
© iStock/ClaudioVentrella

Combining knowledge with human genetics and molecular techniques, the Louis-Jeantet Prize is awarded to a dynamic research team looking to fight dysfunction of the visual system.

Established in 1986, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine is awarded each year to experienced researchers who have distinguished themselves in the field of biomedical research in one of the member states of the Council of Europe. And this year, Botond Roska has been awarded the 2019 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, for the discovery of basic principles of visual information processing and the advancement of therapeutic strategies, such as gene therapy, to restore vision in retinal disorders.

The Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

Roska and his team aim to find ways to repair visual dysfunction which can lead to blindness. They investigate how the retina, thalamus, and cortex function at the level of cell types and circuits.

Botond Roska, Director, Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), Switzerland, explains: “The acquired knowledge helps us to better understand disease mechanisms and to develop treatments hand in hand with our clinical colleagues at IOB.”

“The prize money will help us to further accelerate our joint translational eye research and the development of new treatments. Their clinical application will change the field of ophthalmic therapy.

“The genetic, structural and functional understanding of the cell types and their interactions within the human eye are the basis for our new therapeutic strategies. A better understanding of genetic components to retinal disease will allow us to compile an atlas of genetic eye diseases. Ultimately we want to test the efficacy of gene therapies.”

Roska and medicinal therapy

Dysfunction of the visual system, leading to visual handicap or blindness, is a critical concern which needs to be addressed.

Blindness has a drastic effect on day-to-day life but, unfortunately, sight-restoring therapy for the visually impaired and blind is still a major unmet medical need.

Therefore, to search for ways to repair visual dysfunction, Botond Roska and his co-workers have been investigating the retina, thalamus and cortex at the level of cell types and circuits.

Botond Roska’s research group has illustrated how cell types in the visual system interact in local and long-range circuits and extract features from the visual scene. Combining this knowledge with human genetics and molecular techniques, they have provided insights into the mechanisms of cell type-specific genetic diseases.

Bringing their knowledge of visual circuits together with technologies such as optogenetics, they have designed novel therapies for restoring vision in genetic forms of blindness and other optometry related concerns.

The knowledge they are acquiring has already improved our understanding of disease mechanisms and is opening up paths to potential treatments.

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