The number of people suffering from various visual dysfunctions, not infrequently leading to blindness, is currently on the rise in aging populations. Significant causes of visual impairment include cataract, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Early diagnosis and treatment are necessary to minimize the destructive and irreversible consequences of these diseases. This forms the principal objective to be pursued by the International Center for Translational Eye Research (ICTER) – a new scientific center established by Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski and Prof. Krzysztof Palczewski, awardees of the International Research Agendas (IRAP) program conducted by the Foundation for Polish Science. The general idea of the International Center for Translational Eye Research (ICTER) is to enhance our understanding of the human eye to have a direct impact on new therapies and diagnostic tools by conducting cutting-edge research at different levels of resolution – from single molecules to entire eye architecture and function. This ambitious challenge if realized by one group, would take at least two decades to achieve all goals. With a fully developed design of studies and well-organized structure of groups involved in this research, it will be shortened to 5 years to identify new candidates for pharmacologic intervention.
Leaders: prof. Maciej Wojtkowski and prof. Krzysztof Palczewski
Duration: 54 months, 2019/07 - 2023/12
Value: 34 999 400 PLN
Formally, the International Center for Translational Eye Research (ICTER) will be established as a newly-created subunit of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. The ICTER structure will rely on up to five independent research groups. The University College London (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology in the United Kingdom will be ICTER’s international partner.
PROF. MACIEJ WOJTKOWSKI
Chair of ICTER
Institute of Physical Chemistry PAS
Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski, Ph.D. hab., (born in 1975) is a physicist specializing in applied optics, as well as medical and experimental physics. His scientific career began at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. This was where he defended his Master’s thesis (at the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics), and then the Doctoral and Habilitation theses (both degrees were conferred by the Institute of Physics, at the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics). Between 1998 and 1999 he was employed as a research fellow with the University of Vienna, Austria, and between 2003 and 2005 with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the United States. He has also completed several scientific internships, including at the University of Kent in Canterbury, the United Kingdom, at the University of Vienna, Austria, at the University of Western Australia in Perth, and the New England Eye Center in Boston, the United States. Since 2016 he has chaired the Department of Physical Chemistry of Biological Systems at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. He was elected Chair of that Department in an international competition held within the ERA Chairs grant. He has authored over 160 scientific publications, as well as several patents and patent applications. His works have been published in the following magazines: “Ophthalmology,” “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” “Nature Medicine,” “Optics Express,” “Journal of Biomedical Optics” and “Optics Letters.” He has designed, among other things, an optical tomography used for non-invasive contact-free eye examinations. In 2012 this invention received the FNP Award in the field of mathematical, physical and engineering sciences, often referred to as the Polish Nobel Prize. The tomograph prototypes developed by Prof. Wojtkowski have formed the basis for constructing numerous devices currently in use in ophthalmology clinics and rooms all over the world. Recently, the optical tomography method has been employed in cardiac diagnostics to detect ischaemic heart disease.
PROF. KRZYSZTOF PALCZEWSKI
Vice-Chair of ICTER — Scientific Advisor
University of California, Irvine
Prof. Krzysztof Palczewski, Ph.D. hab., (born in 1957) is a biochemist and a world-famous expert in visual biochemistry. He began his scientific career in Wrocław, completing chemical studies at the University of Wrocław and earning his Ph.D. degree at the Wrocław University of Technology. His Doctoral thesis won awards from both the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Education. Between 1986 and 1989 he was employed with the University of Florida in Gainesville, the United States, and between 1990 and 1992 with the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, the United States, where he launched his laboratory. For 13 years (between 1992 and 2005) he conducted scientific studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, the United States, combining scientific work with diversified managerial functions. Between 2005 and 2018 he managed the Pharmacology Department at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the United States, leading a research team of over twenty scientists. Currently, he is employed with the Medical School at the University of California in Irvine, the United States. Prof. Palczewski has authored more than 500 scientific papers published in the leading magazines, including “Science,” “Nature” and “Molecular Cell”, as well as over 10 patents and patent applications. His significant achievements include crystallizing and describing the structure and function of rhodopsin, as well as discovering the mechanisms leading to retinal degeneration and, in consequence, to vision loss. In 2012, in recognition of these discoveries, the Foundation for Polish Science granted him the FNP Award in the field of life and earth sciences. Prof. Palczewski has also received an array of American awards, including the Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists (2000), the Friedenwald Award (2014), Maurice Saltzman Award (2014) and Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research (2014). In 2011 he received the Knight Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. Since 2015 he has been a foreign member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is an institute within the Faculty of Brain Sciences of University College London (UCL) and is based in London, United Kingdom. The Institute conducts research and post-graduate teaching in the area of ophthalmology (the anatomy, physiology, and diseases of the eye).
UCL-IoO has a long history of delivering fundamental discovery and impact, from basic science of successful mapping of X-linked RP and then a discovery of many inherited ocular disease genes through to the development of gene therapy, development and understanding of cell function through to cell-based therapies for retinal degeneration. Its neuroscience expertise lies in the fundamental understanding of color vision and understanding of visual adaptation through to the development of Excimer laser, electrophysiology, psychophysics and fundal autofluorescence. It continues with this strategy enhanced through the recent highlight of research priorities and extending principal research themes to strengths of other departments of key international strengths in UCL and generate a scientific multidisciplinarity such as with computational biology, engineering, Institute of healthcare engineering and pharmacy.
The UCL-IoO has three priority research themes: Development Ageing and Disease to discover basic and fundamental science in microvascular biology, molecular and cell biology or ocular tissues through to theme of Regeneration, Rescue and Repair where it is developing biologically, small molecule and cell-based therapies for ocular diseases and underpinned by third themes of Visual Function and Integrative Epidemiology, bringing fundamental neuroscience, visual psychophysics, biomedical imaging, artificial intelligence and population-based life course and genetic studies to its understanding of vision and ophthalmic disorders. The UCL-IoO is able to bring its science to life through a partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital in UK government-sponsored NIHR- Biomedical Research Centre, elaborating its ability to undertake experimental medicine studies, early phase trials and exploit the well-curated and large population base of patients with inherited eye disease and common ophthalmic disorders.
UCL-IoO will support the external advisory governance toward the establishment and operation of ICTER, both the scientific aspects and also ensuring the formation of an efficient administrative and management structure by sharing its knowledge and expertise. Complementarities in research carried out by the ICTER groups and the research program conducted at the UCL-IoO will ensure a high level of the evaluation process of research projects that will be conducted at ICTER - from the perspective of fundamental science along with their clinical value. There is also considerable potential in forming strong scientific links and sustainable research collaborations between both institutions. UCL-IoO will play a key role in establishing and implementing procedures and best practices for recruitment of the most appropriate and experienced candidates to be employed in ICTER. It will actively contribute to the formation of the scientific strategy of the new institution.
INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE — ISC.
- Supervision and evaluation of the scientific performance of ICTER;
- Evaluation of the research projects submitted in open competition;
- Evaluation of running research projects;
- Evaluation of the ICTER Chairs.
- Andrew Dick - Institute of Ophthalmology UCL, England
- Alison Hardcastle - Institute of Ophthalmology UCL, England
- Francesca Fanelli - Universita degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy
- Arie-Lev Gruzman - Bar-Ilan University, Israel
- Christopher Dainty - University College London, England
- Karl Wilhelm Koch - University Oldenburg, Germany
- Pearse Keane - Moorfields Eye Hospital, England
- Olaf Strauss - Charite, Berlin, Germany
- Pablo Artal - Centro de Investigación Óptica y Nanofísica Universidad de Murcia, Spain