José-Alain Sahel, MD

Senior Advisor

José-Alain Sahel, MD, trained at Paris University Medical School, Louis Pasteur University, Strasbourg, and Harvard University. He is honorary Professor at University College London, Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology at Sorbonne University and the Endowed Distinguished Professor and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/UPMC. He founded the Vision Institute (Sorbonne Université-Inserm-CNRS) in Paris, France, and the Vision Institute at UPMC, opening in May 2023, two large interdisciplinary research centers.

His work has contributed to the understanding and prevention of vision loss from photoreceptor cell degeneration. He founded and led the Vision Institute (Sorbonne Université-Inserm-CNRS) in Paris, France, one of world’s largest interdisciplinary research centers focused on vision and its disorders. His work has contributed to the understanding and prevention of vision loss from photoreceptor cell degeneration in retinal degeneration.

He developed gene-independent therapeutic strategies and led dozens of clinical trials on retinal conditions, including first in human trials of artificial retina, gene therapy, optogenetics. The trial in optogenetics, representing the culmination of many works of collaborative preclinical research provided the first-ever clinical demonstration of the benefit of optogenetics in functional restoration. Another major discovery is the validation of his hypothesis that loss of central and light-adapted peripheral vision in retinal degenerations results from the loss of expression of a trophic factor, which his team identified, as well as the underlying mechanism of action, leading to a novel therapeutic approach potentially applicable to all affected patients, now entering clinical trials internationally.

He co-authored more than 40 patents and 700 peer-reviewed publication, several of these in leading journals. He has cofounded companies developing innovative therapies for vision restoration.

He sits on several editorial Scientific Advisory Boards, including Science Translational Medicine.

He is a member of the Académie des Sciences-Institut de France, the Académie des Technologies, the Association of American Physicians, the American Ophthalmology Society, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He holds a Honoris Causa Doctorate from the University of Geneva and held the Chaire d’Innovation Technologique Liliane Bettencourt at Collège de France (2015-2016). He received, among numerous awards the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Trustee Award, the Alcon Research Institute Award for Excellence in Vision Research, the Grand Prix NRJ-Neurosciences-Institut de France, the 2015 Foundation Fighting Blindness Llura Liggett Gund lifetime achievement Award, the Médaille Grand Vermeil, Ville de Paris (2019), the 2021 Breakthrough in the Life Sciences – Falling Walls Foundation, Berlin, Germany, the 2022 Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation Award for Translational Neuroscience and the 2023 International Prize for Translational Neuroscience from the Max Planck Society, Germany.