José-Alain Sahel, MD
The Eye and Ear Foundation Endowed Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Director, UPMC Eye Center
Dr. Sahel is one of the world’s top experts in retinal diseases and vision restoration research. He also is the founder and director of the Vision Institute in Paris and a professor at the Sorbonne’s medical school Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie. He has developed several interventions—including stem cell implantation, gene therapy, innovative pharmacologic approaches and the artificial retina—for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, vascular eye disease and other vision impairments that currently are untreatable. Over the past decade, he has led pioneering efforts in optogenetic vision restoration, a technique in which cells in the retina are genetically modified to express light sensitive proteins. This therapeutic technique has the potential to help patients who are blind or visually impaired as a result of a genetic defect.
Dr. Sahel is a co-inventor on more than 40 patents, several of which have led to start-up companies including Fovéa Inc., which Dr. Sahel founded and later became the Ophthalmologic Division of Sanofi Aventis. He also is a scientific co-founder of GenSight Biologics Inc. and Pixium Vision Inc. He is a member of 11 editorial boards, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation and Science Translational Medicine.
He has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, which include membership in the Legion of Honour (2008); the National Order of Merit (2002) and induction into the Collège de France, the highest honor awarded to a French scientist. He is an elected member of the Académie des sciences-Institut de France, the Académie des technologies, the Academia Ophthalmologia Internationalis and the German National Academy of Sciences. He also has received the Grand Prix for Neurosciences of the Foundation NRJ, Institut de France; the CNRS Medal of Innovation; the Foundation for Fighting Blindness Trustee Award and the Liura Liggett-Gund Award, among others. Dr. Sahel holds an honorary degree from the University of Geneva.
Dr. Sahel studied medicine at Strasbourg University and in Lariboisière, Saint-Louis. He received his medical degree with a Medal of the Faculty of Paris and obtained his specialty certification in ophthalmology. He completed a residency in neurology and neurosurgery at the Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Strasbourg. He also was a research fellow at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a visiting scholar in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.