Professor James Bainbridge, consultant eye surgeon at Moorfields Private, has been awarded the 2018 Champalimaud Vision Award – the largest prize of its type that recognises major scientific breakthroughs in eye care.
Professor Bainbridge receives the award for his work in developing a gene therapy to treat Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a genetic cause of childhood blindness. The €1 million prize will be shared with three teams from around the world for their contribution to the research which opens the way to revolutionary new treatments for genetic conditions.
Inherited retinal diseases are one of the leading causes of blindness in working age adults and the second leading cause of blindness in children in Europe, the US and much of Asia. This group of diseases is caused by changes in genes important in the retina, the light sensing tissue at the back of the eye.
Professor Bainbridge and his colleague Professor Robin Ali from Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology performed the world’s first gene therapy treatment in 2012 on a patient with LCA. They injected genes containing cells that normally detect light into the back of a patient’s eye. In patients with LCA these light detecting cells do not work, preventing them from seeing properly. The replacement genes help to heal the dying cells enabling the retina to detect light and eventually improve sight.