Nov 2, 2023

Funding the Future: New awards announced to support early career clinician-scientists

Fighting Blindness Canada has awarded three new Clinician Scientist Emerging Leader Awards, helping build the pipeline of ophthalmologist researchers. Clinician-scientists can translate laboratory research into the clinic and help bring clinical trials to Canadian patients. Previous awardees have gone on to complete prestigious fellowships and launch their own independent research careers.

In 2023 we are pleased to announce three new winners; Ehsan Misaghi, Dr. Matthew Quinn, and Dr. Jovi Wong. Keep reading to learn more about the winners and their research projects.

Ehsan Misaghi

$40,000 | University of Alberta

Investigating the function of PIKFYVE in the retinal pigment epithelium.

Ehsan Misaghi is currently enrolled in a joint MD/PhD program at the University of Alberta with a goal to pursue ophthalmology during his residency. Ehsan’s PhD is focused on understanding the genetic and molecular basis of inherited retinal diseases. His focus is the PIKFYVE gene that has recently been found to be mutated in patients with retinal degeneration. Ehsan will be studying the role that PIKFYVE plays in the structure and function of retinal pigment epithelial cells. These cells play an important support role for light sensing photoreceptor cells.

“I have always been passionate about pursuing a career as a clinician-scientist-innovator in order to close the gap between bench research and clinical practice, and to innovate in both. My heartfelt thanks to Fighting Blindness Canada for their support through the Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader Award, which will enable me to advance this research and ultimately help chart my path toward ensuring individuals facing blinding diseases have access to innovative treatments.”

Dr. Matthew Quinn

$20,000 | Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Exploring a link between the microbiome and AMD progression

Dr. Matthew Quinn is a neuro-ophthalmologist who recently launched his career at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Matthew is trying to understand more about why wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) progresses. Changes in the microbiome can be caused by inflammation and has been linked to AMD. Matthew will use population-level databases to determine if there is an association between common clinical events that disrupt the microbiome and AMD progression. This knowledge may help to develop new treatments or prevention strategies for wet AMD.

“This award will help me to further expand my portfolio of big data research in ophthalmology and vision sciences. As an early-career researcher, I see this award as an important milestone which will allow me to carry out important research.”

Dr. Jovi Wong

$20,000 | University of Toronto

Studying sleep quality and circadian rhythms in patients with optic nerve damage.

Dr. Jovi Wong is currently an ophthalmology resident having previously completed a PhD and medical degree. Jovi will be studying circadian rhythms in patients with optic nerve damage. Circadian rhythms are predictable 24-hour cycles that influence many aspects of our health, including our sleep-wake cycle. The optic nerve carries light signals to the brain and also helps the brain identify the time of day. In this project Jovi will be exploring if circadian rhythms are disrupted in patients with optic nerve damage (e.g. glaucoma).

“Clinician-scientists provide an essential and irreplaceable perspective from having been fully trained clinicians and scientists in one person, therefore understanding the gaps in the field through lived experience as a clinician, and how to develop the best scientific approach to address those gaps.”

Congratulations to Fighting Blindness Canada’s 2023 Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader Awardees, and thank you to our donor community who have allowed us to invest in the future of vision research!

Learn more about Fighting Blindness Canada funded research.

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