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Irish Scientist receives world's top vision research award

Michael Redmond

Irish-born scientist Michael Redmond shared in the world's top science prize in vision research this week. Dr Redmond, a native of Wexford, who works with the National Eye Institute, US National Institutes of Health, in Washington DC, was presented with the 2018 António Champalimaud Award for Vision Research.

His work, beginning in 1990 with the US National Eye Institute, on the RPE65 gene led to the development of the gene therapy Luxturna. RPE65 is an essential gene for vision, and its loss, as Dr. Redmond and his colleagues showed, leads to early childhood blindness. Before the development of this gene therapy, this blindness was incurable.

The award, which is worth €1 million, recognises the first, and still only, example of successful gene therapy in humans that corrects an inherited genetic defect and is therefore a milestone in medical therapeutics, said Professor Alfred Sommer, Dean Emeritus of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and chairman of the award jury.

Dr Redmond received his award in Portugal on Tuesday last (September 4) along with colleague researchers in gene therapy from both the US and the UK.

Michael’s research and his ground breaking discovery of the gene RPE65 was the foundation for the continuing work of the teams who were also included in the award.

Michael was born in New Ross and educated at CBS New Ross, St. Peter’s College, Wexford, and UCD. He graduated from UCD with his PhD in 1983.

The Champalimaud Award for Vision Research, one of the world’s largest science prizes, was presented in Lisbon by the President of Portugal Professor Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. The Irish Ambassador to Portugal, Orla Tunney, was also present at the ceremony.

Michael Redmond, Ph.D. is chief of the National Eye Institute’s Laboratory of Retinal Cell and Molecular Biology.